Teagarden slowing things down with Frisco

MIDLAND – Catcher Taylor Teagarden was recently sent to Double-A Frisco in order to get everyday at-bats and work his way back to the big leagues. Lone Star Dugout recently caught up with hitting coach Brant Brown as well as Teagarden himself.

The last year-plus has not been easy for Taylor Teagarden offensively, and he is dedicated to trying to right the ship.

The Dallas native got to the big leagues in a hurry, putting together an impressive offensive resume in the minors.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing nearly the entire 2006 season, Teagarden got to the upper-minors in a hurry. In 394 at-bats between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco in '07, he hit .310 with 28 doubles, 27 homers, and 75 walks.

While Teagarden was known as a plus-plus defensive catcher even during his time at the University of Texas, many scouts have always questioned his bat. Teagarden seemed to assuage many of those concerns after his '07 season, although he struck out 128 times.

The backstop got off to a rough start at Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2008, but he rebounded by going 15-for-47 [.319] with five doubles and six homers during his first stint in the big leagues.

Acting as the Rangers' primary backup catcher last season, Teagarden provided his normal Gold Glove-caliber defense, but he batted just .217 with 14 walks and 76 strikeouts in 198 at-bats. While he showed some pop, hitting 13 doubles and six home runs, pitchers were often able to throw average fastballs by him in any count.

Because Teagarden doesn't have excellent bat speed, it makes his timing all the more important. When his trigger is slow, he struggles to catch up to any fastball, and that's exactly what happened in the big leagues this season.

The 26-year-old became the Rangers' everyday catcher after Jarrod Saltalamacchia went down with an injury during the season-opening series. But Teagarden was demoted to Triple-A after going just 1-for-27 with four walks and 17 strikeouts over 10 games.

Teagarden played in four Triple-A games, going 1-for-14 with nine punchouts before going down to Double-A to find everyday playing time. The other member of the club's opening day catching duo––Saltalamacchia––had also been optioned to the minors.

Since arriving in Frisco, Teagarden is beginning to improve slightly, but he is still having problems squaring up on balls at the plate. He is 7-for-31 [.226] with two doubles, seven walks and 12 strikeouts.

Teagarden will likely never hit for a high average in the big leagues, and he will probably always have a high strikeout rate. But when things are going well, he has strong raw power and an excellent eye for the strike zone––more than enough potential to carve out a long major league career, particularly given his excellent work with the glove.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with Frisco hitting coach Brant Brown as well as Teagarden himself to discuss how the backstop is working to get back to the bigs.



Jason Cole: What are some of the things you're focusing on with Taylor Teagarden down here?

Brant Brown: In our initial sit-down meeting––and it's good that we have had a relationship from Bakersfield to the Fall League last year. We have a good rapport. He's a smart hitter. Almost like over-smart, to where he will overanalyze everything that he does to a point that it causes detriment to his mental side of his approach.

Our number one goal was to be mentally prepared to hit. So no matter what he's doing physically or mechanically, it's really just having the mindset that you're a good hitter and this guy throws almost the same thing that you see every day, just with a different name on the back. You have to have that confidence that you have when you are going good. That's our number one thing.

Our number two thing is that there are some things in there mechanically that we have shown on film. We have been able to videotape and do some drills that will help him be more confident. And then, of course, go back to number one, which will mentally prepare him to be ready to hit.

Cole: How do you feel he is progressing at the plate since he arrived here?

Brown: He's definitely more competitive. He's got a better feel about what he is trying to accomplish. He likes the routine that we have set, and he is carrying some confidence. It's great to have him. We've been friends for awhile, but it's fun to watch him catch and it's fun to watch him throw. But it'll be even more fun to watch him leave here for me.

As much as I want him on this team to help us win, I also want him to be able to get to where he needs to get and then get out of here. I'm not saying it's going to be tomorrow, but he's definitely improving and taking the right course of action to where he's seeing benefits not only in his work and in his BP, but also in his game as well.

Cole: When Teagarden first joined you guys in Frisco, how was his mindset?

Brown: He was fried. He just had so much anxiety and mental stress. He just felt like he hadn't achieved what he wanted to achieve and that every time he went out there, he was going to strike out twice, get a ground ball or just miss a ball and everyone would say, ‘Hey, that last one was real good.'

He was real accountable. He wasn't like, ‘Oh, I got screwed,' or anything like that. He was real accountable for his actions. And that's the most important thing––when you can finally just say and be accountable, you can start solving the problem. If you can state the problem, you can solve it.

Most guys don't want to state the problem. He stated the problem, but he was just game confused, I want to say. And that's part of our first course of action––getting him mentally back stable so he can take the good with the bad.

Cole: How big do you think it has been for him to take a step back and kind of get a breath of fresh air down here in Double-A?

Brown: I think it's good because it takes some pressure off, and he can do some things in a game that he probably wouldn't feel comfortable doing at a Major League level, knowing that the outcome isn't the most important thing tonight. Up there, the outcome is the most important thing tonight. The win or loss, how did you do, how did you help the team.

It has definitely helped him to be able to come down here. I know that he had to take a couple steps down to play every day, but he is fine with it. He's good, he's ready to go every day. He has got great spirits. He is doing a really good job with the pitchers––his all-around game. I just think that he has been able to breathe a little bit, and I think that will help any offensive or defensive player.



Jason Cole: Can you talk a little bit about what you are working on offensively with Frisco?

Taylor Teagarden: I'm just trying to basically get back to where I was in '07 and '08, when I was at the best I was as far as my career. I'm trying to rewind a little bit and get back to doing some of the good things I was doing. Just slowing things down and letting my hands work for me instead of against me, pretty much.

Cole: Have you watched a lot of tape of yourself from '07 and '08 while trying to right the ship?

Teagarden: Yeah, I've watched thousands of video clips. I wish it was that easy––just to look at the video and see things. Obviously I can see things that I'm doing better in those videos, but muscle memory can be your friend, and it can also be your enemy if things aren't going right.

You've got to really reverse some things if you're doing things wrong mechanically. You have to try and find the base of the things that help you the most and try to stick with that.

Cole: How much has it helped you to get away from the majors and try to get back in a less stressful atmosphere?

Teagarden: It's a good atmosphere to get my work in. Obviously I'm getting to play a lot. I'm getting a lot of at-bats. I can't really ask for a more ideal situation for myself to get to where I need to be. It's obviously hard to learn things in the big leagues because the pressure of winning and all that is right there in your face. I've been given this opportunity and I'm just trying to make the most of it.

Cole: Being a guy that is regarded as an excellent defensive catcher, do you ever find it difficult to separate the offense from the defense when you're struggling at the plate?

Teagarden: It's probably hard for a lot of guys, but I feel like I can do a fairly good job of separating the two. Being a catcher, my number one priority is to keep the pitching and defense in tact as best as I can.

The offense––the five minutes of the game that I spend on offense is nothing compared to the two hours and thirty minutes that I spend on defense. That's basically the difference. Yeah, it is hard sometimes, but you have to separate the two or it can affect both things.


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