Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Kenny Holmberg (Part 2)

After working as a coach at the Texas Rangers' Dominican Republic complex last year, Kenny Holmberg enters his first season as the club's DSL Manger. Lone Star Dugout interviewed Holmberg to discuss the Dominican program and some of its players.

Cole: They recently sent catcher Guy Edmonds out there. Is he the only native English speaker that is playing out there right now?

Holmberg: Basically––a guy that I can have a good conversation with, no doubt. But there are some Venezuelan kids and some Dominican kids who aren't fluent, but they can have a conversation with you on the phone. There are some kids that have a feel––they can understand what is going on. I have a kid from Mexico who speaks pretty much English and Spanish.

Guy's English is Australian English, so we joke with him a little bit on the fact that our coaching staff and players are like, ‘What did you say? I don't know, he's not speaking English, he's speaking Australian.'

Cole: Tell me a little about Edmonds as a player. He's the first 16-year-old position player that the Rangers have signed out of Australia. What does he need to work on before getting up to Arizona full-time?

Holmberg: He's a raw kid. He comes from Australia, where they don't play very much competitive baseball. They do play baseball, but it's not at the level that you'll see over here in the Dominican, or in the United States, or maybe even in Canada for that matter.

He's a kid that is going to improve quickly. He listens, he learns. He's very vocal and high-energy. He is going to make the guys around him better and motivated to play up to his level. I'm looking forward to him improving all of his skills, defensively, offensively, and base running. Everything in general.

I think that's the really neat thing about the Dominican Summer League––you can come down here and hone any skill that you want to get better at and you've got all day to do it. You have all week, all month. At the end of the day, you look back and say, ‘Man, I really got better in that area. Now it's time to move on to something else.'

We have a goal here that we want to master our fundamentals of the game. When we finally master the fundamentals with these kids, then in my opinion, they're ready to move on, because the talent and the ability is pretty good for the young age that they're at. Once they get the fundamental stuff down, I think you've got some interesting ballplayers in front of you.

Cole: Chris Garia grew up as more of a track guy, and I know he is working on getting the fundamentals down while he's out there. Can you tell me about his development and maturation as a player?

Holmberg: I love the kid. He's a switch-hitter that gets down the line between about 3.9 or 4.2 seconds. He absolutely flies. He can go get it in the outfield. He gets the barrel on the ball. He tries to get under it sometimes, and we're really working on toning the swing down, toning the barrel down, and getting their hands through the zone. Just being able to put his best tool to work, and that's his ability to put pressure on the defense.

He has been great. He had an unbelievable Fall Instructional League, coming off the July 2nd down here with our coaching staff. They helped him out a lot on the bunting side. We've got some guys from the minor league side and even the big league side down here helping him out on the bunting.

But, for me, I think he needs to learn how to hit. He needs to go over to the United States as a hitter and not a bunter. He needs to have that skill to bunt, but he can be a big-time threat if he can get the barrel on the ball consistently and really put some pressure on the defense if he needs to bunt.

I really appreciate how he has worked. He's a kid that sometimes you don't know if he is enjoying the game or not, but that's just his personality. I think he loves the game, he has a passion for it, and he wants to compete. He wants to be the number one guy that leads the club in every offensive category––production from stolen bases to RBIs to runs to productive plate appearances. He wants to be the guy. He has set goals and I think he's primed to have an unbelievable summer for me.

Cole: I don't believe I got to see him play in any games during instructs in the U.S., even though he was there. Is he more of a centerfielder?

Holmberg: Yeah. He's a guy that is going to go get it gap-to-gap. I think sometimes he overruns balls. He has been working on breaking down and catching balls. He can get a little wild with the throw, but the arm strength is there. We just want to teach him how to be more accurate and less wild. He has done a great job. I'm looking forward to it. He'll probably be our leadoff guy all year and if things go well, he might find himself hitting third by the end of the year for us down here.

Cole: Juan Grullon pitched in the Arizona League last summer, and he wasn't in Spring Training this year. Is he at the Dominican complex right now or is he in Arizona?

Holmberg: He is currently with us, and he has been doing a great job pitching-wise and off the field. There hasn't been one glitch in his routine. He has been a leader––he helps with English. He has been great in English class. He's a guy that is a role model for the young kids here because he knows what goes on over there in Arizona. He has been absolutely fantastic for us.

If he stays with us this summer, it'd be great for me. If he can get himself over to the States and help out Tingler's club or Spokane or wherever it may be, then that's great for him. For right now, he's here and he is working hard. He is doing everything we ask him to do, and he has done an absolutely tremendous job in the past month and a half here in the Dominican.

Cole: One of the final guys I want to talk about is Victor Payano, who initially signed with the Red Sox. His deal was negated after he failed the physical, and the Rangers were able to sign him on quite the discount. What are your impressions on him?

Holmberg: His nickname in English is ‘Strike one, strike two, strike three' for me. He gets out there and competes. He's another 6-foot-5 lefty. We have got some big boys here. He commands it, he's not afraid to attack the zone. He'll give up a two-run home run and say, ‘Give me the ball, let's go.' He's not fazed.

He busts his butt in conditioning every morning and really gets after it. He's a leader in the conditioning––he wants to get bigger and wants to get stronger. He has goals. He wants to be the guy here this summer, and I think he is going to bring the best out of a guy like David Perez with competition. He has been fantastic.

He is one of those lefties that throws strikes, and he is 6-foot-5. Once he gets command of spinning it and using that changeup, he is going to be a tough guy to battle with. Another kid I'm looking forward to having a nice summer on the pitching side. All our guys are really high on him down here–-the coaching staff loves him. They love his work ethic and I'm glad he's with us and we don't have to face him over there in Boston.

Cole: Have you seen any red flags health-wise so far, or has it been pretty clean?

Holmberg: No, like I said, the conditioning, the weight lifting, the bullpens, and the game action, PFPs and fundamentals––everything has been clean. He has got a smile on his face, he enjoys the game, he enjoys the competition, and he hasn't been in the trainer's room for anything. Knock on wood.

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