Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Ryley Westman

Rangers catching instructor Ryley Westman has spent the last four weeks at the club's Dominican Republic complex, helping Latin American players prepare for Spring Training. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the coach to discuss catchers Tomas Telis and Jorge Alfaro, among other subjects.

Jason Cole: I want to start off by talking about Tomas Telis. I know you worked with him closely in the AZL last season. What was your reaction when you heard about his Tommy John surgery?

Ryley Westman: It was definitely disappointing. You've got a kid that genuinely comes in and works his tail off. When you've got a guy that really loves the game as much as Telis does, it's obviously disappointing to go through an injury. The bright side of that is that it is a guy like Telis, and I have no doubt in my mind that he's going to do everything in his power to go through the recovery process. He's going to get right back out there.

Telis is a guy that's going to be able to be in Arizona. Obviously he's going to make his body stronger and get back to where he needs to be. We've got some great people out there in the strength program. He's going to be able to be in the locker room. He's going to sit around with the pitchers, talk baseball, and improve his English. He is a very smart young man. His English got a lot better last year, and with him being in Arizona rehabbing for most of the summer, it's only going to get better.

Really his communication will get better, and he's going to get back to being healthy. He's a kid that will recover. He is definitely a kid that is going to come back in full force, I have no doubt about that. But the initial information, when you find out, your heart drops a little bit for a guy like that. But Telis is a good kid and he'll get right back out there.

Cole: You've been working with the young players in the Dominican Republic for about four weeks now. What is the daily process like there? Do you guys have all of the Latin American players there right now?

Westman: We've got mostly our younger guys. Guys like Junior Martinez, Andres James and Cristian Santana. A couple of guys that I guess are a little bit older, but those are young guys too themselves–you're looking at 20 year olds. But mostly it's a younger program. I would say we've got about 55 guys out there right now–all Latin guys.

The number one goal is getting their bodies in good shape and getting ready to go in and try to win a spot in Spring Training. It was exciting to see a lot of those guys come back. I think a lot of them had very good offseasons. As a staff, we were very happy with how they returned to the complex. They're in good shape, and when we're doing conditioning, so far so good. We've been very happy with what they're doing on the field and off the field as well as far as the weight room.

But our number one goal is to get these guys physically ready for Spring Training. Other than that, just to tune them up and get them ready to rock and roll. We want to get them comfortable with doing base running and taking batting practice. Pitchers are getting into their bullpens. This next week, we're going to start doing timing for our batters and we'll start doing a little live bullpen. Just batters getting some pitch recognition. More or less it's just getting these guys revved up for spring.

Cole: There has also been a lot of talk about the Colombian catcher that recently signed for $1.3 million, Jorge Alfaro. How much have you gotten to work with him so far, and what are your initial impressions of his game?

Westman: I've gotten to work with him quite a bit, actually. Jorge is a good kid. First coming out here, I really didn't know anything about him. But the past couple weeks–Jorge is an exciting kid to be around. He is a hard worker. He's a young guy–he's 16 years old. He is eager to learn. When you're talking to him, he has got eye-to-eye contact the whole time, and you've got to tell him to go in the clubhouse to be done. He is a guy that will stay out there with you the whole day.

We've been working on his English, and it's only going to get better. Right now, he's kind of new to all that. I don't think he has spoken a lot of it before. But like I said, he's working and practicing. He has got a very good arm. He's a kid that hits very well. He is a fun guy to be around. He is very interesting and very exciting–a hard worker. I've enjoyed it so far. He's a big name, and hopefully he keeps working. He has got a lot of exciting things ahead of him, I have no doubt.

Cole: You've also getting a chance to work with some of the Dominican Summer League catchers out there–guys that haven't played in the U.S. yet. Is anyone from that group standing out to you so far?

Westman: Alison Perez is a guy coming off an ankle injury. He rehabbed for quite awhile in Arizona last year. He was off to a tear at the beginning of the Dominican. He's a guy that really swings a good bat, and now he's finally got his feet back under him. That ankle is healthy. I hope big things for him.

Another guy for me is Yefry Castillo. He's a guy that doesn't have the Macumba arm or a big stick, but he is a good receiver. Everybody likes a hard worker, and being in player development and working with him every day, he is a guy that works his tail off. I love that. He receives well, he's a smart kid, and he is very versatile. He can play the outfield as well as catch. He runs pretty well. He just does a lot of things and plays the game right. He's a fun kid to be around, and I think he's a kid that will play baseball for a long time. I think he's a guy that will be around the game for awhile.

Cole: You mentioned that you were helping some of the guys with English. Are you helping teach the players?

Westman: Yes and no. We've got English instructors that come out. For example, when you were in high school–or any grade for that matter–you sit down in a classroom kind of an environment and you're being taught and instructed the stuff. I think for myself, a foreign language is very difficult, and I've got a very long way to go.

I think as much as you can sit down with a couple guys one-on-one and just be able to talk with them and answer any questions that they have–I think that's very beneficial, especially coming from a coach. Sometimes in a classroom environment there are a lot of guys out there, and they may not be paying attention. But you get one-on-one with a coach, and it's like, ‘Hey, let's talk baseball. How is your family? Where are you from?' Just getting them speaking and more comfortable, because when they go over to the United States, that's going to be their initial contact–dealing with the coaching staff and dealing with fellow American players.

I think that's the one thing that will benefit them a lot. We have a great staff out here. Our Venezuelan staff, our Dominican staff and myself and Kenny [Holmberg] and Paul Kruger, who is out here. Not only does speaking with them help us get to know who these players are a little bit, but it also helps us with our Spanish and them with their English. It's kind of a win-win for everyone.

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