Rangers Minor League Notes (3/4)

SURPRISE, Ariz. - The Texas Rangers began their Spring Training schedule on Thursday afternoon, and a number of prospects saw significant action against the Royals. Lone Star Dugout has notes from the game plus a video clip and a Q&A with Mitch Moreland, who was 3-for-3 in the contest.

The Texas Rangers took another significant step toward Opening Day on Thursday, playing their first official Spring Training game of the year.

The game was a success, as the Rangers won 13-3 while banging out 21 hits. But for fans that want to see the future of the organization, early-March Spring Training games are always intriguing because they are loaded with prospects, as many regular players don't last past the fourth or fifth inning.

• The Rangers minor leaguers teed off on Royals non-roster invitee Matt Herges, who struggled–to say the least. Herges' fastball was sitting at just 86 mph, and he was often leaving it belt high and over the plate, where nearly every Rangers hitter got good wood on the ball. His 69-71 mph curveball was largely ineffective.

• Third baseman Matt Brown, who committed a throwing error earlier in the game, took one of Herges' hanging 71 mph curves and deposited it over the left-field fence for a three-run homer. Brown has been hitting the ball well in camp thus far, and he also had a double earlier in the contest.

In the field, Brown appears to move around pretty well at third base, and he has a good enough arm for the position, but his hands appear to be a bit suspect. Over the past two seasons at Triple-A Salt Lake, Brown has played more first base than third, and a check of the numbers reveals fairly high error totals at the hot corner throughout his career.

Mitch Moreland entered the game at DH for Vladimir Guerrero, and he continued to show why he is one of organization's top hitting prospects. The Mississippi State product went 3-for-3 with a double and two runs batted in. Moreland hit a run-scoring high chopper over a drawn in infield in his first at-bat, then he added an RBI single to center and a double off the left-center field wall later in the contest.

The slugger has a definite big league approach at the plate, and he has worked hard to improve his balance, bat speed and eliminate holes in his swing since joining the system as a 17th round pick in 2007. While Moreland profiles as a solid hitter with above-average power in the Majors, his position is in doubt. Although he doesn't have great range, Moreland provides a strong arm in the outfield, and he has spent most of his time in the system moving between first base and right field. As the 24-year-old explains in the following interview, he is also beginning to see some time in left field.

• After spending practically all of last season at first base, Chad Tracy is once again getting some work in left field [where he played in 2007 and 2008] with the big league team. Tracy came in as a replacement for David Murphy, and he put together two excellent at-bats, going 1-for-1 with a triple and a walk. Tracy took a fastball on the outer half the other way for a triple to right-center field. The prospect has solid power to all fields, and if he continues the selective approach he began employing in the second half last season, Tracy's bat could play at the big league level.

Craig Gentry also put together a few solid plate appearances. In his first at-bat, he reached on a dribbler infield single before promptly stealing second base. He then took a 3-2 fastball for a called strike three and finished off the day with an RBI single to left against Herges.

Gentry's toughest moment of the day came when he slammed into the centerfield wall while going after a fly ball. He appeared shaken up for a moment but remained in the game. That wall continued to take a beating in the Arizona State/Cal Poly contest, which was played an hour after the Rangers game, as two players went face-first into the fence.

• Fireballing righty Tanner Scheppers put together the most impressive outing of the day, retiring the side on just seven pitches. He threw five fastballs–all between 96 and 98 mph–and all for strikes. Scheppers also mixed in a pair of changeups to the first hitter [86 and 87 mph, respectively] for balls. He induced a groundout to second, a groundout to short, and a groundout to first.

• Following Scheppers was left-hander and Rule 5 Draft selection Ben Snyder, who is competing for the bullpen's lefty specialist role. Snyder's 86-89 mph fastball was about normal velocity [he can sit a tick higher], but he is tough on his fellow southpaws.

Against the two lefties he faced–Mike Moustakas and Mitch Maier–Snyder got a strikeout and a popout to third base. His at-bat against Moustakas went as follows: 88 mph fastball [called strike], 75 mph slider [swinging strike], 77 mph slider [ball], 76 mph slider [ball], 87 mph fastball [swinging strike].

Snyder releases the ball from a three-quarters angle that is tough to pick up for left-handed hitters, and his sweeping slider is a definite out pitch. He limited lefties to just a .146 average in Double-A last season.

Alexi Ogando was impressive in his inning, which marked his first-ever game of pitching in the United States. Ogando was a hitter in the Oakland system through 2004, until the Rangers selected him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft and moved him to the mound. Unfortunately, that was also around the same time he was stuck in the Dominican Republic.

Though his only real upper-level experience has been in his limited Dominican Winter League action, the 26-year-old showed no fear on Thursday, attacking hitters with his 95-97 mph fastball. Of his 17 pitches, Ogando threw 13 fastballs [his last six registered at 96 mph], two 83 mph sliders, and three 88-89 mph changeups. One of Ogando's sliders showed good tilt, but the other flattened out and acted more like a cutter.

Pedro Strop was effective in the ninth inning, tossing a scoreless frame with one strikeout. The hit he allowed came on a broken-bat jamshot blooper on a 95 mph fastball–nothing to be ashamed of. Though he threw just two sliders, the pitch did appear to be a bit improved from last season. If Strop can consistently harness and command his three-pitch power repertoire this season, he could be a force at the back-end of the Rangers' bullpen.

Daily Videos

Watch Video - HD (Mitch Moreland hits soft toss)

Spring Training Prospect Videos

Daily Prospect Q&A: Mitch Moreland

Jason Cole: This is your first time being in big league camp full-time. I'm trying to remember–did you get any time in big league Spring Training games last season?

Mitch Moreland: I got to JIC [just in case] in a couple Major League games. I had that experience, but this is completely different. It has been a lot of fun so far, being around some of these guys and kind of learning the ropes and what they go through every day. It has been an experience.

Cole: You got some good experience in the Arizona Fall League earlier in the offseason. Do you feel that time against the higher level of competition really helped prepare you for big league camp?

Moreland: It definitely helps. The Fall League is a great league, and they play a high caliber of baseball there. It definitely helped me feel a little more comfortable, but still, you come in here wide eyed. You just try to take it all in, and that is kind of what I've been doing.

Cole: Well, what are your thoughts on your experiences here in Major League camp so far? How's it going?

Moreland: It has been a lot of fun. I've learned a lot. We have got a great coaching staff and a great group of guys. You learn from those guys every day. You just try to, like I said, take it all in and really live in that moment, I guess you would say.

Cole: You've got your first big league Spring Training game coming up later today. How excited are you about getting the opportunity to play in those games on a regular basis?

Moreland: I'm really looking forward to it. I'm excited to get back out there between the lines, and give it all I got. Hopefully we can open some eyes here and maybe carry it into the season and see what happens from there.

Cole: Have you been working on anything in particular, whether it be in the field or at the plate, in camp thus far?

Moreland: Maybe a little more versatility in the field. I want to make sure I'm sharp at each position. I'm not real sure where I'll play each day when I get to the field–if it's right, left or first base. I just kind of make sure I'm ready for whatever they put out there for me.

Cole: You played pretty much just right field in Frisco and first base in Bakersfield last year. Have you been playing one more than the other so far, or is it evening out?

Moreland: It has actually kind of balanced out since I've signed until now. I have played about the same amount at first as I have in right field.

Cole: And you said you're also working out in left field this spring?

Moreland: Yeah, I'm going to have to be ready for that, too.

Cole: Now that you've had success in Double-A, the Fall League, and you're in big league camp, have you set any expectations for the upcoming season as far as reaching the Majors at some point?

Moreland: I haven't set any expectations. I've just got to go out, play as hard as I can, and take it a game at a time. I've got to be ready for whatever they throw at me. If that's what comes, then I'm all for it. It has been a dream of mine, but like I said, I've just got to keep working and it will take care of itself.

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