Grimm looking for consistency

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Texas Rangers added a powerful arm to their already deep system when they inked fifth-round selection Justin Grimm for a reported $825,000. Lone Star Dugout recently caught up with the 22-year-old prospect.

Justin Grimm has many of the key assets that scouts look for in a pitcher––tall frame, strong arm, and the ability to spin a quality breaking ball.

The Rangers were able to snag the hard-throwing righty in the fifth round of this year's MLB Draft, but they certainly didn't pay fifth round money. Grimm signed just prior to the deadline for a supplemental first-round money––a reported $825,000 bonus.

Grimm's powerful arm caught the eyes of scouts in high school, when he was selected by Boston in the 13th round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He eventually chose to attend the University of Georgia and struggled in his freshman campaign before coming back to post a 4.15 earned-run average in 15 starts during his sophomore year.

The 6-foot-4, 193-pound hurler flashed his first-round potential with Cotuit of the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2009. Grimm made eight starts with the club, posting a 2.84 ERA and walking 14 while fanning 47 in 44.1 innings.

Grimm returned to school and scuffled through a difficult 2010 campaign for the Bulldogs, which included a 16-37 overall record and a cumulative 8.51 team ERA.

The Tennessee native ended up leading his UGA club in most pitching categories, though he was just 3-7 with a 5.49 ERA. Grimm logged 77 innings and gave up 82 hits while walking 35 and striking out 73.

Despite the less-than-ideal results this past season, most pre-draft publications listed Grimm as a potential first- or second-round pick because of his ability. The Rangers were able to snag him later than expected, though they still paid early-round money.

The 22-year-old has a low-to-mid-90s fastball that can touch as high as 97 mph in short-relief situations. He has a true power arm to go along with a promising curveball and a changeup that showed progress last summer.

After signing, Grimm has been working out with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers club. He will get his first in-game action at Fall Instructional League next month.

Lone Star Dugout recently caught up with the prospect.

Jason Cole: Just give me your thoughts on draft day. What was that like for you, and did you have any expectations coming into it?

Justin Grimm: Draft day was actually a little frustrating for me because I thought I would go a little higher than what I did. But it ended up working out. The Rangers are a great organization to be in. I'm just having fun being here and getting work in. I'm trying to become better every day.

Cole: You were a junior this past year at the University of Georgia. At the end of the day, how difficult of a decision was it to sign instead of go back to school?

Grimm: It was actually a very difficult decision. I told my agent my bottom dollar and he ended up working out things for me. Coach kept calling me saying, ‘You aren't going to have to pay anything if you come back. We really need you.' He was saying they were going to get the guys in to make a run for a championship next year. That was always in the back of my mind, as well. But it ended up working out toward the last days before the deadline. I'm happy it did.

Cole: How big of a relief was it to finally get the deal done and move on to a new part of your life?

Grimm: It was a big relief. But I just look at it as a new start––a new chapter in my life. It's a fresh start. I get to start fresh and come out here, work every day, and make myself better. I'm trying to climb the ladder to make it to the big leagues.

Cole: How did you feel about your junior season at UGA?

Grimm: Very disappointing. The numbers were terrible. But it didn't really tell my year. I had a lot better year than what they showed. We didn't really have much of a team. We were young and talented, but the young guys on our team really didn't show up when it mattered. We just lost a lot of ballgames and it was very disappointing.

Cole: From the start of your college career to where you finished, how did you feel you developed and matured as a pitcher?

Grimm: I think I made huge strides in becoming a better pitcher and a better person as well. That was a big thing, as far as maturing on the field and off the field. I've just been able to handle things––just every day things in life.

As far as on the mound, I've taken huge strides. Out of high school, I was a little erratic with control, but it has gotten better. Things are starting to come together here as well, just within the couple weeks that I've been here.

Cole: Tell me a little about your stuff. What do you have in your repertoire?

Grimm: I feature a fastball––it's probably one of my best pitches when I'm locating it. And I have two curveballs. One is more of a 12-to-6 breaking ball and the other is more of a slider. It's kind of an 0-2 strikeout pitch-type. And I'm working on a changeup since I've been here, too.

Just in two weeks––I probably threw one of the best bullpens of my life the other day as far as locating, controlling my body, and everything with that. It worked out great.

Cole: Did you throw a changeup in college?

Grimm: No. Probably two every third game, maybe. In the summer, in Cape Cod, I threw one a lot and toward the end of the summer, it became a very effective pitch––almost even a strikeout pitch for me.

But I stopped throwing it when I got to college. It's frustrating because I probably should've kept working on it. But I know it's there and I know there is potential in that pitch. I know it'll be a good pitch for me down the road.

Cole: The Rangers have a number of guys in the system that played in the SEC and a bunch that played in the Cape. Did you know anyone in the system coming into this?

Grimm: Yeah. Chad Bell. I played with him all summer last year. I think he's been up in Spokane and Hickory pitching this summer. I talked to Justin Smoak, who is gone now, a couple times over the phone. That was back when I had actually accepted an advisor, because he has Smoak as well.

There are two or three guys that I know throughout the system. Also Justin Earls, who played on my team at Georgia this past year. He's in Spokane as well. Hopefully once I start getting up the ladder, it'd be nice to join up with them again.

Cole: How many bullpens have you thrown here so far?

Grimm: Just one. They're kind of taking it slow. They've got me on a throwing program. A little long toss here and there and stuff like that. The main thing we're working on is just keeping my head straight toward the mitt. That's one of the main things that I really heard them stress.

Cole: I'm guessing they haven't changed much with you yet? One of those situations where they're getting the feel for you as a pitcher as much as you're getting the feel for them?

Grimm: Yeah, exactly. But I know through instructs, they're going to teach me a lot and I'm ready to learn and make myself better.

Cole: Tell me about your first week of pro ball out here. What are your thoughts?

Grimm: Yeah, I didn't have much expectation. I got here and enjoyed it. I feel like I'm getting better already. I'm just going through everything––conditioning and getting in shape. Getting ready for instructs is the main thing.

Coming out of college really helped me out a lot. Coming out of high school––I don't know how some of these kids do it. Personally, after going to college, I felt like I wouldn't have been ready to come out of high school. It's just something you have to adjust to––being out at the field every day for hours and hours.

Cole: What are you looking forward to improving while you're out here and at instructs?

Grimm: It's just more about consistency for me, I think. A lot of it is there. It's already developed. I just need to get more consistent with it.

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