Results tagged ‘ Ross Wolf ’
Time to pat ourselves on the backs again and extend a big, gracious, Texas-sized THANK YOU to all of you out there reading. The ‘Riders Insider Blog made a charge up the recent MLBlog Rankings to #8 among MiLB Pro blogs for the month of July. We are honored and excited to achieve our highest ranking of the season (previously, we checked in as high as #10).
In honor of this great news, it seemed like a good time to go back at look at some of the posts that made it possible. In case you missed them, here are the must read blog posts of the season:
Battle of the Beards: Tufts vs. Bleier – The #2 ranked post of the season and #1 in July is a fun profile of the beards of Richard Bleier and Tyler Tufts. They even nicknamed their beards. Want to know what Tyler Tufts’ beard does in its free time? How about Richard on why his beard is better than Tyler’s? (published July 17)
The RoughRiders’ ghosts of trade deadlines passed – is a look at all of the trades the Texas Rangers have made at that trading deadline (or near it) that involved current RoughRiders players (or players that played for the team the season they were traded). Did you know the Rangers had Kip Wells? How about Matt Stairs? Find out which RoughRiders were offered up to get them. (published July 29)
Say it is Joe! – The third ranked post since the start of the season, here is the story of Joe Benson. GIF ALERT: included is a gif of Joe running the bases at breakneck speed on a home run. He does that. Check it out. (published May 29)
Catching up with… Ross Wolf – Okay, so this only one sort of counts. Not published this season, the interview Alex conducted with Ross blew up around the time of his promotion, I am sure in part to some pub from Scott Lucas of the Newberg Report (thanks Scott!). This is a great read with some truly interesting tidbits. There is also a great baseball card photo in here. It’s worth checking it out for that alone. (published November 2, 2012)
Snow Day! – Here is one is of the most popular posts of 2013. The gallery of some of my favorite photos of Dr Pepper Ballpark. Kudos to Alex for braving the February cold. Truly unique photos that you cannot find anywhere else. (published January 15)
The Knuckleball – I don’t know why I bother writing a description for this one. You probably already clicked the link. I mean come on. It’s the knuckleball…if it doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will. Here is a glance at some of the other knuckleballers around baseball, inspired by then-RoughRiders hurler Kevin Pucetas. (published June 22)
‘Riders on the Record: the first day of school, home runs over touchdowns and the return of Mike Olt – Our most popular ‘Riders on the Record post of the season, this week included Joe Benson discussing his first days as a Texas Ranger and Mike Olt explaining his vision issues. (Published June 2)
What is your favorite post of the season? Let us in the comments below or on Twitter @RidersBaseball
Baseball term of the day: ramicack – to hit a baseball
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
Ross Wolf has made 502 appearances in his professional career. Over those 502 outings, he has tossed 748.1 innings. 18 of those outings were starts, 11 of which came during his first professional year in 2002 for the Jamestown Jammers of the New York Penn League (Short-Season A, at that time with the Florida Marlins) and six of which have come in the last six weeks with the Round Rock Express (Triple-A, Rangers). Before this season, the right-hander hadn’t started a ballgame since 2005.
Wednesday afternoon, Ross Wolf makes his 26th major league appearance. He will balloon his 25 innings pitched at the major league level, and the 30-year-old from Illinois will make his first big league start.
When he does, he will become the 99th RoughRiders player to make the big leagues after his time in Frisco (excluding rehabbers of course). He joins: Joeseph Ortiz (95 – Texas Rangers), Leury Garcia (96 – Texas Rangers), Nick Tepesch (97 – Texas Rangers) and Robbie Erlin (98 – San Diego Padres). He is the first member of the 2013 RoughRiders to appear in the majors.
Ross Wolf spent parts of two different seasons in the bigs: in 2007 he made 14 appearances out of the Florida Marlins bullpen and another 11 outings for the Oakland Athletics during the summer of 2010.
Signed as a minor league free agent after the beginning of the season on April 27, 2012 after being released the same week by Baltimore, Wolf spent the majority of the season in Frisco, with a brief stop in Round Rock.
After just one outing with the RoughRiders this season, Wolf was promoted to Round Rock on April 9, 2013 where he joined the Express rotation, posting just a 1-1 record in six starts despite a very impressive 1.85 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He walked just nine batters over those six starts in 34 innings pitched.
It’s been 964 days since Wolf has toed the rubber of a big league mound, with his last appearance coming on October 1, 2010, when he pitched a scoreless ninth inning of a meaningless 9-0 Oakland victory over Seattle. Since that date, Wolf has made professional appearances in 113 games, spanning 171.2 innings, and thrown 2,634 pitches.
If you want to get to know the veteran a little bit more, broadcaster Alex Vispoli had a really interesting conversation with Wolf in November in which he discusses the change in his repertoire over the last year and why his first two big league stints didn’t go as well as he would have liked.
Wolf gets the nod in Arlington this afternoon for the series finale against the Oakland Athletics, as the Rangers look to avoid being swept for the first time this year. Wolf is the 8th different starting pitcher used by Texas this season and is taking the spot of another former RoughRiders hurler, Nick Tepesch, who is being skipped with a blister issue.
Adam Morris of LoneStarBall suggests that Wolf will be DFA’d after his start today, which means he could be claimed by another big league team, traded, sent back to the minors, or released, making his future very uncertain, but I am sure he is thrilled to get the chance to prove something today. We here in the ‘Riders media department are excited for him as well, and if he can get a victory, he will do what Yu Darvish couldn’t do last night, get the Rangers a win over the As–which would be a decent claim to fame if nothing else.
Baseball term of the day: wolf (of course) – a fan who constantly criticizes or heckles a player or team
After an opening month of relative silence on the roster-move front, the Frisco RoughRiders began May with a splash of changes. April saw just three total transactions and only one moving player:
Today, Jake Brigham, Alex Buchholz and Ryan Feierabend were promoted to Triple-A Round Rock. This marks the first trip for Brigham and Buchholz to the Triple-A level. Feierabend spent time in the majors with the Mariners from 2006-2008.
Klein and Mavare will both be at the Double-A level for the first time. Klein was selected by the Rangers in the 30th round of the 2011 MLB Amateur June Draft out of Youngstown State University. The 24-year-old was spending his second season with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the Carolina League. This season the 6’7” 230 lbs. right-hander posted a 1-0 record and a 1.98 ERA with 12 strikeouts and just three walks over 13.2 innings in seven appearances in Carolina League play.
Mavare, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2009, is in his fifth year of professional baseball. The 23-year-old sported a 0-1 record with a 2.38 ERA in seven outings in his first season with Myrtle Beach. He struck out 12 batters and walked three in 11.1 innings of work.
Frisco’s roster now has 24 active players, one below the Texas League limit.
Klein is not small to say the least. His 6’7″ frame makes him the tallest ‘Riders player on the roster. Font, Pucetas, Ramirez and Rowen are 6’4″ and the closest in stature to Klein. It’s was also Klein’s birthday yesterday (happy 24th!), so he’s probably feeling about as good right now as he did when he threw a perfect game in the Atlantic Coast Baseball League at age 19. Not a bad 24 hours for the young man.
The Ohio native, Klein has shot up the Rangers system quite a bit in the last calendar year. He was promoted to Myrtle just last August, and is now among the first duo to make it up to Frisco from the Pelicans this year. Oh, and Klein pitched for a team whose mascot was the Penguins in college, in case you were curious.
Here is a snippet of what LoneStarDugout’s Jason Cole had to say about Klein when he was promoted to Myrtle in August (click the link to read the full report):
Coming from a high three-quarters arm slot this year, Klein shows a loose arm with clean mechanics that produce an 89-92 mph fastball that has touched the occasional 93-94. He also features a short-but-late breaking slider at 83-84 mph with slight tilt.
According to Cole, Klein was sitting 91-93 with the heater and touched 94-95 at fall instructs.
Jose Mavare’s first stateside season came in 2010 with the Rangers AZL club. After a fantastic 2011 season between rookie ball and Short-Season A Spokane, things slowed down a bit for him in his first year of full-season ball in 2012 with Hickory, but he pitched well enough to open the season with Myrtle Beach this year. He throws an upper 80s to low 90s fastball and sports a curve and change to go along with it. The strikeout potential is clearly a big part of his game, but he doesn’t posses an overpowering fastball despite raking up over 11 k/9 IP in his career.
Taking a look at the numbers, both have been impressive:
RHP Phil Klein
|2011||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A–Rk||1||2||3.98||12||0||0||20.1||20||13||9||1||16||31|
|2012||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-A+||6||0||1.73||40||0||8||62.1||39||13||12||3||23||67|
|A+ (2 seasons)||A+||1||0||1.50||14||0||0||24.0||8||5||4||1||5||26|
|A (1 season)||A||6||0||1.90||33||0||8||52.0||37||12||11||2||21||53|
|Rk (1 season)||Rk||0||0||0.00||3||0||0||2.2||2||0||0||0||1||7|
|A- (1 season)||A-||1||2||4.58||9||0||0||17.2||18||13||9||1||15||24|
RHP Jose Mavare
|2009||2 Teams||1 Lg||FRk||4||2||1.36||20||5||2||59.2||43||15||9||1||19||58|
|2009||Rangers 2, Rangers 1||DOSL||FRk||4||2||1.36||20||5||2||59.2||43||15||9||1||19||58|
|2010||2 Teams||2 Lgs||Rk-FRk||5||1||2.08||23||0||2||43.1||28||14||10||0||15||61|
|2011||2 Teams||2 Lgs||Rk-A-||0||1||1.95||17||2||0||37.0||24||10||8||0||15||54|
|FRk (2 seasons)||FRk||5||2||1.07||26||5||2||75.2||48||16||9||1||23||85|
|Rk (2 seasons)||Rk||4||2||2.66||26||2||2||50.2||37||18||15||0||19||68|
|A (1 season)||A||5||5||3.57||40||0||5||80.2||66||34||32||6||27||102|
|A- (1 season)||A-||0||0||1.98||8||0||0||13.2||10||5||3||0||7||20|
|A+ (1 season)||A+||0||1||2.38||7||0||2||11.1||7||5||3||1||3||12|
We give a big, warm Texas welcome to these two guys, your newest RoughRiders. And Congrats to Jake, Alex, and Brigham — best of luck in Round Rock!
Baseball term of the day: duck snort – a softly hit ball that goes over the infielders and lands in the outfield for a hit. The term was popularized by White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson.
2B Odubel Herrera
1B Guilder Rodriguez
3B Alex Buchholz
DH Brett Nicholas
RF Alejandro Selen
CF Ryan Strausborger
C Tomas Telis
SS Hanser Alberto
LF Teodoro Martinez
*LHP Ryan Feierabend
3B Angel Franco
SS Orlando Calixte
DH Rey Navarro
LF Mitch Canham
CF Yem Prades
1B Matt Fields
RF Whit Merrifield
2B Alex McClure
C Juan Graterol
*LHP Noel Arguelles
Some thoughts on the lineups:
- First game for Selen in the field. He plays RF after three games as the DH. He is still looking for his first hit.
- No Chiang again. He hasn’t played since coming out of the lineup Sunday for a pinch hitter.
- First day off for Jared Hoying. Odubel Herrera, Ryan Strausborger and Brett Nicholas are the only ‘Riders who have played every game. Strausborger came on as a pinch hitter on Sunday, thought.
- Brett Nicholas is the DH — his first game out of first base.
- Another new position for Guilder Rodriguez. He has played in all four infield spots now after playing the hot corner last night.
- Telis gets the early nod as the more regular catcher. He and Zach Zaneski split the first four games. Telis though started yesterday and is going again today.
A few notes:
- Ross Wolf has been promoted from Frisco to Triple-A Round Rock.
- When the Travelers come to town Thursday, they will be without Jeremy Berg. He pitched in two of the three games against Frisco over the weekend was promoted the Triple-A Salt Lake.
- Edition #6 of the game notes have been published and has great tidbits on the starters and players on the ‘Riders roster.
- Former ‘Rider Nick Tepesch makes his debut for the Texas Rangers tonight. He will be the 97th ‘Rider to play in the majors after his time here.
- Today’s game can be heard here or if you are on an iPad or iPhone, click here. You can also watch the games with the audio feed simulcast by purchasing a subscription to MiLB.tv.
With calendar year wrapping up, we’re taking one last look at the 2012 season, specifically the top performers in the Rangers organization. MiLB.com’s Rangers Organization All-Star Team provided a good jumping off point and yesterday we took a look at the infield with an eye upon the outfield and pitching today.
Joey Butler, Round Rock (137 G, .290-20-78, 28 2B, 3B, 93 R, 6-10 SB, .392 OBP, .473 SLG, .865 OPS)
Julio Borbon, Round Rock (126 G, .304-10-56, 23 2B, 8 3B, 78 R, 20-28 SB, .349 OBP, .433 SLG, .783 OPS)
Engel Beltre, Frisco (133 G, .261-13-55, 17 2B, 17 3B, 80 R, 36-46 SB, .307 OBP, .420 SLG, .727 OPS)
Lewis Brinson, AZL Rangers (54 G, .283-7-42, 22 2B, 7 3B, 54 R, 14-16 SB, .345 OBP, .523 SLG, .868 OPS)
The Rangers have a decent number of outfield prospects in their farm system and some very exciting ones who spent 2012 in the lower levels. Unfortunately, some of those exciting prospects did not have very good years offensively. The super-athletic Jordan Akins (Hickory) couldn’t crack the Mendoza Line in his first year with a full-season club while former first rounder Jake Skole struggled mightily in the Carolina League before serving a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
However, there were some notable seasons among outfielders down on the farm. While perhaps a little too old to wear the “prospect” label, Butler turned in a fine season for the Express, providing a consistent, middle-of-the-order threat. Whether or not he profiles to make a big league team at any point, he should have a long career in professional baseball given his ability to produce at the Triple-A level. I could have really included the entire Round Rock outfield on this list, as Borbon’s numbers were nearly as impressive Butler’s and Leonys Martin (55 G, .359-12-42, 1.033 OPS) was a stud in his limited time in Triple-A. While both certainly have credible cases to be made, ultimately I decided that there were other players who deserved the recognition maybe just a bit more.
My pick of Beltre was likely influenced by having the opportunity to see him everyday with the RoughRiders this past season. The former Red Sox signee entered this past season looking to wipe the slate clean from a disastrous 2011 campaign that tarnished his prospect status. The Dominican delivered, setting career-highs in home runs, triples and steals. His 17 three-baggers were the second-most in Minor League Baseball and he played an astonishingly good center field. Speaking from a purely defensive standpoint, I am convinced that he could step into the big leagues today and be a top 15 center fielder.
Based on his 2012 season, the Rangers certainly have to be happy with selecting Brinson with their first round draft pick this past June. The 18-year-old Floridian did not get the same level of attention that AZL Rangers teammate Joey Gallo received for his desert power surge, but that was through no fault of his own. Brinson led the AZL with 36 extra-base hits, 54 runs scored and 124 total bases while finishing one shy of the league lead in both hits and RBI. The potential of Brinson and many of his teammates from this past season should keep Rangers fans excited for the future.
RIGHT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER
MiLB.com’s pick: Barret Loux, Frisco (25 GS, 14-1, 3.47 ERA, 127 IP, 120 H, 100 K, 41 BB, 1.27 WHIP, .251 BAA)
My pick: Cody Buckel, Myrtle Beach/Frisco (26 G, 23 GS, 10-8, 2.49 ERA, 144.2 IP, 105 H, 159 K, 48 BB, 1.06 WHIP, .206 BAA)
Loux’s record is gaudy, but a closer look into his and Buckel’s numbers make the Californian the decisive choice from my perspective. Loux wowed everyone (the Diamondbacks included, methinks) by winning each of his first ten starts of the season before going 4-1 in his final 15 outings. His command of four pitches and ability to adjust from start-to-start and during starts were something to behold. Traded to the Cubs in November as Jake Brigham’s replacement in the Geovany Soto deal, Loux fits the profile of a 4 or 5 starter in a big league rotation. While Loux was very good at the start of the season for Frisco, Buckel was transcendent for the Pelicans. The undersized righty had more starts (13) than runs allowed (12) in the Carolina League and, after an adjustment period in Double-A, was at his best in the Texas League as the season wrapped up. Buckel learned to pound the strike zone with his zippy 92-94 mph fastball and then tortured hitters with his multitude of off-speed offerings (including a “shuuto,” or “reverse-slider”). Buckel should be a regular big league contributor (either with the Rangers or another team depending on how the trade winds are blowing) before the end of the 2014 season. Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards also were worthy of consideration for this spot.
LEFT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER
MiLB.com’s pick: Chad Bell, Myrtle Beach/Frisco/Round Rock (31 G, 21 GS, 8-7, 3.48 ERA, 2 SV, 142.1 IP, 123 H, 110 K, 54 BB, 1.24 WHIP, .236 BAA)
My pick: Bell
The paucity of lefty starters in the Rangers’ system almost gives this award to Bell by default, but he is still a worthy recipient. He probably should have begun the year: a) in Frisco; and b) as a starter all along. But he started 2012 in a multi-inning relief role for Myrtle Beach before joining the RoughRiders at the end of April. He got off to a rocky start in the Texas League, allowing a home run in his first outing before settling down and going 23 straight innings over seven outings without allowing another earned run. By mid-May, he was starting and on June 11 he received the biggest boost of his season and perhaps his professional career. With Rangers Special Assistant and pitching legend Greg Maddux in attendance, Bell allowed just one hit and one walk with six strikeouts over 6.2 scoreless innings in a win over Midland. Maddux said after the game that it was one of the most impressive starts by a Minor Leaguer he had ever witnessed. Bell was in Round Rock by the end of the month and, though the PCL proved to be more treacherous, continued to string together solid performances.
MiLB.com’s pick: Ben Rowen, Myrtle Beach (38 G, 5-0, 1.57 ERA, 19-20 SV, 57.1 IP, 52 K, 3 BB, 0.77 WHIP, .201 BAA)
My pick: Rowen
Winner of a “MiLBY Award” for the best reliever in all of Minor League Baseball, the submariner Rowen is obviously the best choice here. The former 22nd round draft pick kept his pitches consistently down, inducing a 2.9 GO/AO ratio and allowing just two home runs all season. His ludicrously low number of walks (three) is perhaps his most impressive statistic, given the unpredictablility of submarine-style pitchers in general. Other excellent relievers from this past season included Phil Klein (Spokane/Myrtle Beach), Jimmy Reyes (Myrtle), Nicholas McBride (Spokane/Myrtle Beach), Zach Osborne (for his Myrtle work), Ross Wolf (Frisco/Round Rock), Joseph Ortiz (Frisco/Round Rock) and Yoshinori Tateyama (Round Rock).
– Alex V.
Right-handed relief pitcher Ross Wolf spent most of 2012 with the RoughRiders after signing with the Rangers organization in late April. The recently-minted 30-year-old appeared in 36 games for Frisco and went 3-1 with a 2.09 ERA and nine saves. He was an 18th round draft pick of the Marlins in 2002 and made his Major League debut for Florida in 2007; Wolf also pitched for the Oakland Athletics in 2010. He recently re-signed with Texas and took the time to talk with me about the off-season, his disappointing playoff performance in September and his path back to the big leagues.
Alex Vispoli: It’s been a busy off-season for you with the birth of your daughter, Emery Shea Wolf, born on 10-11-12. She must be keeping you busy.
Ross Wolf: I know [laughs]. Her due date actually wasn’t until the 18th of October, which is my birthday, which is kind of weird because our son was born a week early too. She’s a blessing, just like our son is. She’s healthy, that’s number one. And my wife is doing good too, so that’s number two. And right now we’re both getting along good. I mean, [both of our kids], they’re going to keep me busy.
AV: Are you getting much sleep?
RW: She’s actually letting us sleep at night which is what our son did. As of right now she’s not any different that the way our son was.
AV: From a timing standpoint, it probably couldn’t work out any better for a baseball player than to have your baby born in October. You’ve got a few months where you can just completely devote yourself to family time before getting into the swing of the season.
RW: Alex, you said it. I’ve played with guys that were only home for about two or three days and then they had to leave to get back into the season. You know, that would hard for the wife and the family. I’m grateful and blessed enough to have a baby in the offseason so that I can be here for her and them for four or five months before we have to leave.
AV: I know it’s still early in the offseason but have you had a chance to start your preparations for the next season at all? Or is that in the planning phases; when do you get into that?
RW: I’m getting ready to start working out next week. I usually take about four or five weeks off after the season and just don’t do anything. I let my body just relax and mellow out before I start it up again. When I start it up it will take probably a good four weeks before I hit it hard. The first four weeks really ain’t tough; it’s just getting back into the groove of things and going from there.
AV: Is that just experience for you as to know what to do with your body or is it something you’ve learned?
RW: I would say yes. I think this is my 12th year playing and … I’ve finally found a program that lasts for me during the whole grind of the summer. It took maybe three or four workout plans to find the right one you like. I think it comes with experience, I think you’re right.
AV: Congratulations as well on re-signing with the Rangers. How did that process go for you?
RW: It went good, thank you. It went really good. I’m still trying to get a big league invite so hopefully they can give me one. I know how the Rangers are; they’ve got a ton of prospects. I mean, you know that too. They want to see what their young guys can do, but maybe I’ll go over there and pitch a lot and maybe they’ll give me one. If not, I’m just glad it’s done and they wanted me back pretty badly. So it’s done and out of the way. Last year I was stressed out, I mean I couldn’t find a team until a week before Christmas, when teams started calling.
AV: So do you know exactly what your role is? When would you figure out what your role would be come spring training? Do you feel like you can make a push at being a guy that they would consider for the big league roster? It’s looking like there’s going to be a decent amount of turnover with regard to players that were on the team this year.
RW: It’s just hard telling. Being in the free agency market for six, seven years now, you just never know who they’re going to sign, who they’re going to trade for. It all comes down to that and going to spring training and showing them that you can pitch for them during the season. And then going into the season and putting up numbers like we did this summer. Just go out there and throw strikes and the main thing is have fun. This team, when I was in Frisco, was probably the most fun that I’ve had in recent years that I can remember.
AV: Yeah, this year it was a great group to be around. But your role in particular, you had a great year in your time with the RoughRiders.
RW: Thank you.
AV: Did you feel any better this year than you may have in years past? Was your stuff any better or was it things just coming together for you?
RW: That’s a tough question to answer. Physically, I felt great, probably the best I’ve felt in the last two or three years. Stuff-wise, I felt awesome. I never had a slider, or whatever you want to call it. Some people call it a hard slider or a big slider or a curveball. I’ve never had that; usually I have been a fastball-changeup guy, and I really didn’t start throwing my changeup until the middle of August. Mentally, the guys on the team were so much fun to be with. You felt relaxed because they went out there and had fun. They weren’t stressed out because they struck out four times in a row, they would still make a play behind you when you’re on the mound pitching. I know that they’re young and I hope that they continue to do that down the road, just go out there and have fun. I was telling my wife it just brought back the joy of the game, just what it’s all about. Just go out there and have fun and whatever happens, happens.
AV:So that really makes a difference? For those of us who have not played the game at a terribly high level, it’s easy to look at it all like a video game with guys having certain physical capabilities. But the fact that it was a good group to be around and that positive mental atmosphere actually – in your case at least – made things easier or helped your performance?
RW: Oh without a doubt. All the way down to the little things. We had fun on the bus trips; we had fun in the clubhouse, before and after games. It helped having Brad Hawpe there too for a little bit for a lot of the guys, and Val [Majewski] of course. The thing that made it good was that the guys wanted to work. They wanted to work, they wanted to have fun and they wanted to win. And, like I said, they hardly hanged their heads when they had a bad day. You couldn’t tell when they had a good day and when they had a bad day, which is awesome.
AV: When you signed with the Rangers organization I remember that you told me that you heard a lot of great things. Guys texted you that you were in a good spot. Was it everything that you heard it was going to be when you signed; was it pretty much that those expectations were fulfilled?
RW: Yes. I had a bunch of guys text me when I signed with [the Rangers]. Old Triple-A veterans like Ryan Rowland-Smith and the Andy Van Hekkens; the guys that have been around for a while, they texted me and told me congrats. I would reply with a “thanks” and then they’d always come back and say, “I’ve always heard that Texas treats their players right and they do it the right way.” After this year, you sit down and think, yeah, they do it the right way, even down to the small things. Frisco’s a great place to play. Guys in Double-A for the first time ever are lucky enough to play in a city like that and in a stadium like that. And then if you get called up to Triple-A [Round Rock], you still have the luxury of playing in a nice stadium in a nice city. They do it the right way.
AV: You spent parts of two seasons in the big leagues. Do you view your goal – to get back to the Major Leagues – the same way as you did when you were trying get there for the first time? Is there any difference, or do take your experiences and try and use them to get you back?
RW: I think both. Alex, you’ve been around the game too. Of course players know this as well. The older you get, the harder it is to get back there. But, just to have the experience, maybe a team will give you a call up and say, “Let’s see what he can do.” If [that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen]. I sat and had a long conversation about this with [’Riders manager Steve Buechele] one time after a game. I still haven’t had a chance to prove myself whether I can pitch or not pitch in the big leagues. I wish a manager would have enough faith in me – I have faith in myself that I can still pitch. It’s just not how managers in the past have treated me. When I was with Oakland, I sat for 24 straight days and didn’t pitch in one big league game. And when was with the Marlins, I pitched once, sat for seven-to-nine days, and then pitched. If a manager would treat me like they do in the Minor Leagues and pitch me once every day or two, I think I’d be pretty successful in the big leagues. You always try to get to the big leagues, but if you know you can’t – and that’s not what the case is with me – being back in Double-A with these guys this year, they look to you. They look to you for questions that need to be answered. They just look up to you, like, “What should we do in this situation?” or “How should we handle this?” and just little things like that.
AV:So for you, it was probably a no-brainer to return to Texas in the sense that you’ve got a year of capital built up with some people within the organization and people have seen you perform. So you’re in a better spot to potentially get yourself back up to the big leagues than if you were to start completely anew with an organization that really didn’t know you very well.
RW: You hit the nail on the head. That’s one thing about being a free agent, you go in blind, no one knows you. You’ve got to build this relationship up. I had a conversation with [Rangers Director of Minor League Operations] Jake Krug and we said that that was probably number one. Guys in the organization like me. I wouldn’t have to repeat it again by going to a new team. I’ll just go into spring training knowing the staff, players, etc.
AV: Going back to the end of this season in the postseason series against Springfield. How disappointed were you with the way things ended for you, specifically in Game 2?
RW: Oh man, I was very disappointed. I told Bue after that last game in Frisco, “It’s my bad for Game 2, that was all me.” And he just smiled and said, “Whatever happens, happens. You’re the one who helped get us here. You’ve done as much as you could, you had one bad game.” I said the same thing to [’Riders pitching coach] Jeff [Andrews] and he said, “Hey man, that’s pitching. You gave up two, maybe three bush-league hits. That’s the way baseball goes. You gave up a bloop flare to center and a ground ball to second base that barely got through. All those had to do was go to somebody and we’re out of the inning and we win Game 2.” You know, it’s disappointing, heck yeah. You go all that way and then lose Game 2 when we needed a “W” for sure. It’s one of those things where you try not to think about it, but it’s baseball. You get over it. I was ready to pitch Game 4, I was ready to go. I don’t know, that’s just the way it goes.
AV: I think the encouraging thing is, when I recently talked to Bue, I asked him about that series and just the momentum in Game 2. He said if he could go back and do it again, he’d still probably be ecstatic knowing that he had Justin Grimm and Ross Wolf ready to go with a four-run lead in that situation. So I definitely don’t think you hurt yourself in the eyes of your manager if he had to make the same choice again.
RW: Oh yeah, for sure. He told me that too. It’s just baseball. You can look at the World Series this year, look at Verlander. Who would have ever thought that he would get rocked in Game 1? It’s just how it goes.
AV: So the Colts are your team, right?
AV: So tell me, Andrew Luck seems to be pretty legit.
RW: I love watching him play. I’ve said it for the last two years when he was at Stanford. And if he didn’t even go to the Colts I’d still be an Andrew Luck fan. He’s fun to watch. To me, he’s very competitive, he’s very smart and every Sunday I love watching him play. And now I’ve got my son, every time a Colts logo comes on TV he’ll say, “Colts! Andrew Luck!” It’s very fun and it’s going to be fun watching him play as he develops into a mature player in the NFL, for sure.
AV: That’s awesome. I’m glad you’re enjoying your time in the offseason. Congratulations again on Emery Shea Wolf and hopefully she gets the chance to see you pitch for the Rangers in not too long.
RW: Thank you, I appreciate that.
– Alex V.
Recently, I had the chance to speak with RoughRiders manager and former Rangers third baseman Steve Buechele. We talked about the off-season, the playoffs and some of his players on the 2012 RoughRiders. This is part one of our conversation with part two coming tomorrow.
Alex Vispoli: First of all, how has the off-season been treating you?
Steve Buechele: It’s always nice when you get away from the field and spend some time with the family and just do family stuff. That’s what makes the off-season so special.
AV: It’s been about a month and a half since the season ended. Are you still enjoying your time off or have you gotten to the point where you’re itching to get back to the game?
SB: Oh no, I’m happy to be away. I think everybody looks forward to getting back to the game but you know, that there are still months to go and the time that you have to spend with your family and be away, it’s very precious. Once you get back into baseball, that’s what takes up all your time. I’m sure after the holidays and after Christmas when spring training comes close that’s when [we’ll all be looking forward to getting back to it]. It’s kind of like the swallows going back to Capistrano; you know you’re supposed to be somewhere, you get that itch and you want to get going.
AV: When does it all start up again for you? The season begins in April, the Minor Leagues’ spring training begins in March; are you out there in Arizona come February?
SB: Yeah, the Rangers bring the Double-A and Triple-A staffs to big league camp. [At the moment, the Rangers have not announced their spring training schedule, but pitchers and catchers reported to Surprise, Arizona on February 22 this past year.]
AV: The way the 2012 season ended, going back to the Cardinals series, was there something missing from the performance or did Springfield just out-execute you guys? How do you look back on that series?
SB: You know, when I look back at it we had a chance in Game 2 [in Springfield] with a four-run lead] and I think if you had to go back and do it all over again it’s one of those things where I wouldn’t do any thing differently. I would have felt absolutely awesome knowing that I’ve got Grimm and Wolf coming in to get the last four outs. But it’s the playoffs and it’s baseball and those kind of things happen. I think [the Cardinals] played good and I think we played good. They pitched well, we pitched well and they beat us. I don’t think we did anything to lose the series. I look back and I’m super-proud of my guys and the way we played. Obviously we all wished we could have won the championship but to get there with the group that we had was awesome.
AV: You can even see in this ridiculous Major League Baseball postseason the fact that momentum seems to carry such weight and it seems like it’s even more difficult to stop when you have it on your side. Especially when you’re at home like Springfield was in that Game 2.
SB: Well I think the momentum thing that you talk about, it probably applies more to that Corpus Christi series than anything else. To me, looking back, winning one game in Corpus Christi may have been one of our best accomplishments of the year. That’s a really tough place to play. The fans came out for the playoffs. Usually in the Minor Leagues stadiums are not full, they’re more toward the empty side. But Corpus Christi’s ballpark was full, they had the rally towels and just the atmosphere that was there in that game… You’re thinking you’ve got to play three of them there and we’re going to have a tough time getting through this. But to win that series [in three games] I think was a huge accomplishment for us.
AV: When you look back at the last game of the year, do you think about what could have been based on that controversial call that happened, down 2-0 in the eighth inning with Leury Garcia getting called out on the close play at first base and then Chris McGuiness then hitting the home run on the very next pitch?
SB: Yeah you can think about it. But you know what? Had Leury Garcia been called safe, they probably would have pitched McGuiness a little bit differently too. Those are the things in baseball that, the way they happen and what ends up happening, you look at it in a very general way and think, “Oh gosh, that would have been a two-run homer.” I guarantee you had Leury been called safe and been on first base they would have been careful to Chris McGuiness. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have hit a home run, but I don’t look at as if that home run would have definitely happened to tie the game up.
AV: Looking at the season as a whole, you really seemed to enjoy this season and this group. You spoke about it with me on plenty of occasions. In your mind, what made the group of players as special as it was?
SB:I think it was such a new group and such a fresh group, a bunch of guys coming up from A-ball and making that jump. It was a group of kids that was just raw for our level and learning and talented obviously, a very talented group. But you just don’t know how the kids are going to adapt to moving up a level and facing that challenge. Once you get to Double-A it’s a whole different ballgame as a lot of our kids found out. I think what made it special for me was that it was just a great group of kids that came to the park everyday ready to play, wanting to learn. And for the most part, they played their tails off and they played the game the right way. They took their lumps, a lot of those kids, but I think they all got better and they understand what it’s going to take to move on.
AV: Talking to people inside and outside the organization and there seems to be an intentional strategy of getting good clubhouse guys who are obviously talented as well. You saw how important that chemistry is at the big league level, the way the players interacted during the Rangers’ two World Series runs. Do you think that element on this year’s ’Riders team is more of a coincidence or was this part of the plan with this particular group just now reaching this point on the Minor League ladder?
SB: I’m not sure, Alex. I think when you draft and sign kids, to me, number one above ability is the makeup of the kid. I think a lot of times that gets thrown in the background a little bit because of a kid’s ability and his talents and his skill level. They wow you so much that, you know what, maybe you take a chance on the makeup of what kind of kid he is. To me, that becomes first and foremost is what kind of kid he is. How does he approach the game? What does he do when he’s on the field? How does he come to the ballpark everyday? Is he ready to go? How does he prepare? Those are more important to me sometimes than a kid’s physical abilities. And this was just a group of young kids that was raw, as I said, they had great talent. But for the most part those guys came to the ballpark every day and they were ready to play. What they did in the first half was, to me, very exceptional.
Coming tomorrow: We discuss Jurickson Profar’s future, what happened to the Rangers at the end of the season and his future in the game.