McBride attacking with the fastball

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Nick McBride is currently posting solid results with the Texas Rangers' Extended Spring Training club, and he could join the rotation at short-season Spokane when their season begins. Lone Star Dugout features the 19-year-old with a look at his last start and a Q&A session.

Right-hander Nick McBride has yet to throw an official pitch in professional baseball, but he has already logged plenty of innings at the club's complex in Surprise, Ariz.

The Texas Rangers' fifth-round pick last summer, McBride signed near the mid-August deadline for a $325,000 bonus, and then he reported to Arizona near the end of the rookie-level Arizona League season.

McBride worked out with the AZL Rangers for a couple weeks before pitching at Fall Instructional League. He then saw action in Spring Training and is currently pitching for the Rangers' Extended Spring Training team.

The 19-year-old recently threw four innings against the Cleveland EST club, yielding three runs on five hits. He fanned two without issuing a walk.

In the game, McBride threw his fastball anywhere between 88-92 mph, mostly sitting in the 89-91 range. His fastball––which, as he explains below, is primarly two-seam––has solid natural movement, with some run into right-handed hitters.

The North Carolina native was hittable at times, as he worked up in the zone with his fastball a bit too often, but he has some present velocity and movement. McBride didn't begin pitching until his junior year of high school, and the 6-foot-5, 175-pound hurler projects to add a tick or two to his fastball as both his arm and body matures.

McBride threw strikes and consistently attacked the zone with his fastball. In fact, he didn't throw an offspeed pitch until the third inning of his outing. The righty succeeded with the fastball in the first two innings, but he was burned when he left a 91 mph fastball up and over the plate to a lefty, leading to a three-run homer.

The hurler showed impressive feel for his 77-78 mph changeup, particularly for a prospect less than one year removed from high school. He threw the pitch for strikes and used it with confidence, throwing it to both lefties and righties.

McBride was strictly a fastball-curveball pitcher during his time at Ragsdale High School in North Carolina, but as he states in the following interview, he has been struggling to find feel for the breaking pitch. He only used the curve twice in the outing, and he didn't appear to be getting on top of it.

At the end of the day, McBride projects to sit in the low-90s, perhaps touching the mid-90s, with two solid secondary pitches. He already throws strikes and shows a nice feel for pitching.

With the short-season clubs about to start up, McBride will be getting his first official action with the Rangers' organization. Though nothing is official as of now, it appears that he will likely start the season in the rotation at short-season Spokane.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the pitcher after a recent Extended Spring Training game.

Jason Cole: You signed late last year and experienced your first Spring Training a couple months ago. What was the experience like?

Nick McBride: I really came in with an open mind. I didn't really know what to expect. I thought it would just be neat coming out here and seeing a bunch of the older guys in minor league camp, and also seeing a bunch of the big league guys just hanging out.

Probably the neatest thing was working out in the weight room and seeing a bunch of the big league guys just walking around and acting like everyday people. They were just hanging out with us, getting to know us, talking to us, and everything. That was probably the best thing about it––seeing everybody and how they go about everything.

Cole: You obviously got to know a lot of guys during your time at instructs, but what was it like during the first few days of camp, when there were a couple hundred players out here?

McBride: I had a buddy that played with the Dodgers. He was in their big league camp last year. So I talked to him and picked his brain before I came out here. He said, ‘All it is is organized chaos. It's just a bunch of people going around, but everybody knows what they're doing.'

He told me, ‘Make sure you read the board, keep your head clean, and let all the guys get their stuff done with. Just stay out of the way. You're a first-year guy, so just back off, watch how everybody goes about their business, and just learn from there.'

Cole: How did you feel you threw the ball in Spring Training?

McBride: I felt like I threw fine. It was sort of weird throwing that early, that fast, and that much. My arm was a little dead. At first I was sort of mad about that, but from everybody I talked to, that's just something that happens in Spring Training.

I was leaving the ball up but got away with it a lot. My Spring Training numbers looked good, but it's not really what I was hoping for. In Extended, I've been working on things a lot––getting the ball down a lot more. I want to become more of a dominant ground ball pitcher.

Cole: What are some of those things you have been working on?

McBride: Separating my hands quicker––staying back and over the rubber. I want to make sure my body stays straight to the plate.

Cole: Are those some of the things that help you command the ball down in the zone with more regularity?

McBride: Yeah, all those things. Just taking it all piece-by-piece is helping my ball become more true. Even with my arm being tired, my velocity has gained just by learning proper mechanics. I'm actually excited about how much I should be able to throw once my arm comes back to me.

Cole: You were throwing a lot of two-seam fastballs in the outing the other day. Had you ever worked with a two-seam much before this season?

McBride: Yeah, that's all I have ever really thrown is the two-seam. I have always been more of a power guy, but I've always thrown a two-seam. It's just something I've always done. I have never been much of a four-seam guy. I learned how to throw a ball when I was young, and that's how I threw it, so I've always stuck with that.

Cole: Are you working with a four-seam out here at all?

McBride: Yeah, they're having me start working with the four-seams now just so I can trust it and make my velocity come back a little bit quicker.

Cole: You mentioned the dead arm in Spring Training. How is the arm coming along in general?

McBride: My arm felt great, even in Spring Training. It just feels like there's nothing on it. It's not like I'm hurting out there or anything. But when I throw, it feels like there's nothing on it––it's just dead. It's not like anything is wrong. It's just that I'm not used to all this throwing and my muscles are tired.

Cole: What happened the first time you went out to the mound and you had the dead arm? What were your thoughts, and did it change the way you went after hitters?

McBride: No, it really didn't. I told myself that I still have to be aggressive, even though my velocity isn't there like I would like it to be. I can't be babying it, because if I'm babying it, then the hitters can see that.

But if I'm going out there and acting like I'm throwing a thousand miles an hour, they're going to see that, and they're going to say, ‘This guy may not be throwing as hard as we think, but he's still going to be attacking us hard.'

Cole: You threw a number of changeups in your outing the other day. Being a high school guy, I'm guessing you didn't use the changeup much in the past?

McBride: No. In high school, I could probably count on two hands how many changeups I threw in a year. I just never really needed to, always being a power guy. Out here, I've really worked on it a lot. I worked on it a lot in high school, but I just didn't need to throw it. But out here I have worked on it and fell in love with it. Now it has become one of my better secondary pitches.

Cole: You even threw it more often than your curveball the other day. Was it one of those things where you tell yourself you need to throw it to work on it, or do you just trust the pitch that much now?

McBride: Right now, it's more that I trust it. I'm not really telling myself that I need to go out there and work on a certain thing. I'm telling myself that I need to throw fastballs to get ahead, fastballs to get the hitter out.

I always think to throw as many fastballs as I can to get the hitter out, and then once they start hitting me, that's when I'll throw something else. Right now, that's the changeup because it's feeling so good right now. The curveball isn't bad, but I definitely don't have the feel of it right now like I do my changeup.

Cole: Have you messed around with the changeup grip at all, or are you still using the same one you used in high school?

McBride: I'm still using the same one that I used in high school. I always tried the circle change, and that never worked for me. I just didn't like the feel of it. Then my high school coach taught me this one I'm throwing now. I don't really know what it's called, but it is working for me, so I figured I better keep doing it while it's working.

Cole: So you just feel that as you throw it more often, you're getting a better feel for it?

McBride: Yeah, definitely. Throwing it more and more and more––it's just the repetition of it. Like the more I'm throwing my fastball in the bullpen and commanding it, the better I'm getting at that in the game. It's the same with my changeup and curveball.

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