Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Jayce Tingler

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Following a big victory on Friday night, the rookie-level Surprise Rangers sit one victory away from clinching a spot in the Arizona League playoffs. Lone Star Dugout caught up with manager Jayce Tingler to discuss some of the prospects and late-season excitement.

Jason Cole: Tell me about the season Luis Sardinas has had. He appears to be doing more than just holding his own as a 17-year-old out here.

Jayce Tingler: Through just growing up, maturing, learning to work, bringing it every day––he has just been a professional. That is what Luis has done. And the play is showing on the field. We haven't seen so much up-and-down with Luis because of that, I think.

A lot of credit goes to Luis, our coaches, and the players. We have a lot of young Latin guys really helping Luis out in his development. We're fortunate enough to get to see it night in and night out.

Cole: I know he's hitting well right now, but what are some of the things he needs to work on offensively to maximize his potential?

Tingler: Just getting more consistent––controlling his body and his swing. He has got tremendous hand-eye coordination. You can see that when he plays defense. You can see that when he swings the bat.

He has a tendency, at times, to get the body involved in the swing. When he does that, he gets underneath the ball a little bit. When he can control his body, stay square, and really use the hands––that's when he's playing his best. That's when he's hitting line drives throughout the ballpark.

Cole: Jhonny Gomez has been a consistent producer this season, and he's currently hitting .358, which is second in the Arizona League. What has he meant to this team?

Tingler: Jhonny has been with us from day one down there. Like a lot of the kids, he was not the biggest prospect or anything like that when he signed. But in my short experience, Jhonny probably has what so few people have but a lot of people talk about––he has got true leadership skills. He finds a way to make others around him better. That's what Jhonny brings to the game.

With that being said––bringing leadership to the field––he has had more opportunity to play because of that. With a good work ethic, he has turned himself into a pretty good hitter and a pretty good player.

Cole: And it seems like he is also helping the club defensively. Can you talk about his work in the field?

Tingler: No doubt. We signed him as an outfielder. Last year, we had a hole at first base with that young infield we had. As a group, we made a decision to stick our best leader at first base. He learned it, loved it, and has turned himself into a plus defender at first base.

Hanna had a clutch performance.
Cole: Chris Hanna tonight––five innings, no runs, and 10 strikeouts. Tell me about that performance.

Tingler: That's as good of a pitching performance as we have probably see all year from anybody. And also in a big situation. The kids knew what was on the line tonight, and Hanna comes in and we hadn't been able to stop the Royals early. He comes in and gives us five innings, 10 K's, and no walks––that's probably the most impressive thing. He only gave up two hits.

We knew Chris Hanna was a competitor. In my book, he has taken it to a new level, seeing it in that environment and doing what he did. Just the way he competed, the way he picked everybody up and got us going. My hat is off to him.

Cole: He came into pro ball as more of a fastball-changeup guy, but from watching him tonight, it seems like the curveball has improved and he has gained some confidence in it.

Tingler: I think all three pitches that he showed tonight––he kept the guys off-balance and he does that by throwing any pitch at any time. The fastball is 91-92 mph, firm, and from the left side. He keeps them honest––keeps them off the fastball by mixing in that curveball and putting them away with the changeup. I think the credit goes to Ryan O'Malley and Oscar Bernard for the work they've done with him. He is getting a lot of confidence and hopefully he continues to grow.

Cole: The game tonight was obviously huge, with you guys entering the night with a half-game lead over the Royals. And it seemed to have a real lively atmosphere in both dugouts. How much fun is it to be around games like this?

Tingler: Hopefully the kids understand that these don't happen every year––getting to play meaningful games at the end of August, at the end of the season. I know I played in some that didn't mean much going into the last two weeks.

I think the kids understand that. A lot of our young Latin kids have played in big games the last two years going down the stretch. So hopefully we get to see the reward in them playing in the playoffs the last two years down there. Hopefully we don't miss a beat. Hopefully were aren't timid or scared with anything.

I think it's just a great opportunity for the kids to learn. And also hopefully they have an opportunity to play in Low-A, High-A, and Double-A playoff ball. I think that transition––if they do get into the big leagues––they've been in some pressure games and hopefully it makes that transition easier for them.

Cole: There are a handful of new guys out here that aren't playing but are around the team. The guys that signed right around the mid-August deadline. What are you guys doing to get them integrated and accustomed to the professional lifestyle?

Tingler: Danny Clark, Mike Micucci and Scott Servais––they all put plans together for these guys, even though they're not eligible to play. The goal is to kind of get them comfortable with what we do here with the Texas Rangers. Things like our long toss program, our weight program, our cuff program, our BP routines. And just kind of knowing where everything is––where is the gym, where is the training room, where is field six or field one?

Everything we can do to get them more comfortable for whether it's instructs that they're coming to or whether it's their first Spring Training. Anything we can do to get them feeling comfortable as Texas Rangers.

It's also a great opportunity to get to know the kids. We get to know what we're going to be working with and stuff like that. So it's an opportunity to build a relationship whether it's 11 days, 12 days or whatever before we go into instructs. It has been a good deal, and hopefully we get to see some of it pay off in instructs.

Alvarez will pitch on Saturday.
Cole: Richard Alvarez has been a little in-and-out this season, and he only has around 21 innings. Has he been injured a bit or is he just working on the side?

Tingler: He had a little arm soreness earlier, but he has been battling through it. He's going to get the ball tomorrow. We've got confidence in Richard. He has shown some good progress in the last month. I think he's hopefully starting to mature a little bit. The work ethic has been a little better––he's getting after it. And that's all we want to see out of Richard. We want to see him continue to make steps. We want to look up two, three, or four years from now and hopefully he's knocking at the door.

Cole: It seems like he has gained a little strength. I know he has a little more behind his fastball this year, at least.

Tingler: Yeah. And that's where our pitching guys and our strength guys have really been pushing him. A lot of things come easy to Richard because he's a talented guy with three pitches.

But in order to go up and have success, he's going to have to develop––whether it's a tick more on the fastball or more consistency on the breaking ball, the changeup, the whole deal. We're really getting Richard to buy in and hopefully he has. He has a chance to finish this season strong tomorrow.

Cole: What are your impressions on Cody Buckel in the short amount of time that he's been here?

Tingler: He seems like a very sharp kid. He came in and learned the bunt plays right away––the first-third, the rundowns, and everything. He learned all the intangibles that we do in our team defense and stuff like that. Pitchability-wise, he is very good for a high school kid. The fastball has got some explosiveness to it. He can really spin the ball. Now we just have to finish the year and watch him progress throughout instructs and hopefully into next year.

Cole: From the big leagues to the Dominican Summer League, every team in the Rangers organization is at least in the playoff race and a number of them will likely make it to the postseason. Do the players here know about what is going on elsewhere?

Tingler: They're well-aware of it. There's no doubt.

Cole: Is that a motivator at all?

Tingler: I think these kids have got a lot of pride. They want to be involved just like the other teams are involved. So whether they're talking to their buddies on Facebook that are in Low-A, Spokane, or guys they played with at extended––they want to be part of the same thing that those guys are going to experience. It's a big deal to them and hopefully we can finish it off the right way.

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