Teagarden is answering doubts about his bat
Frisco catcher Taylor Teagarden is in the midst of a breakout year offensively, hitting .317 with 24 home runs between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco. Lone Star Dugout recently spoke with the Dallas native about his season at the plate and the health of his right arm.
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After missing practically the entire 2006 season because of Tommy John surgery, the Rangers have kept a close eye on the health of catcher Taylor Teagarden’s right arm.
“I felt like I did alright in Bakersfield,” said Teagarden. “Health was actually my biggest concern. I had a little bump in the road in May, but now I feel fine.”
When he was playing with Bakersfield, Teagarden was only behind the plate three times per week. Now playing on a Frisco team with three catchers, that trend has continued. Although he isn’t currently catching everyday, Teagarden feels he is up to the task physically.
“I can catch everyday,” he said. “It’s just a matter of the manager putting me in there. Obviously I don’t have any control over that. I don’t even worry about it. If I’m in there, I’m going to catch. If I’m not, I’m going to do whatever [Frisco Manager] Dave [Anderson] wants me to do.”
When he was with the High-A Bakersfield Blaze, Teagarden batted .366 with seven home runs in 101 at bats when he was behind the plate. His batting average dropped nearly 80 points (.287) with 12 round-trippers in 188 at bats as a designated hitter. The Dallas native says that catching helps him stay in the rhythm of the game.
“I think it helps in some ways, but in some ways it’s not so easy,” said Teagarden of his offense while catching. “When you’re catching, you are a little more into the game and you’re looser. You have a little more adrenaline going. I always thought DHing was a little bit harder because you’re on the bench and you aren’t into the game as much as the guys on the field.”
However, Teagarden also believes his offensive production can take a hit because of his work defensively.
“In a sense like today, the heat gets to you as a catcher and your bats are going to be a little bit fatigued,” he said. “But when it really comes down to it, you’ve got to hit when you’re called upon.”
Though Teagarden has not caught on an everyday basis this season, he says he is still able to improve his defense daily.
“You learn something everyday whether you’re catching or not,” replied the 23-year-old. “With me, I was always intrigued with the game calling aspect of it.”
Playing in his first full season of professional baseball, Teagarden has also made it a point to get stronger so his body is able to deal with the grind of a minor league season.
“This part of the year, you start to get fatigued as far as your body is concerned,” said Teagarden. “You’ve really got to grind it out and keep your legs in good shape.”
Because of his advanced game-calling skills and fluid mechanics behind the plate, many experts believe Teagarden would be able to handle catching in the Major Leagues right now. However, many have expressed doubts as to whether he would hit enough to become an everyday catcher in the Majors.
Ever since he posted a .635 slugging percentage in his professional debut with the Spokane Indians, Teagarden has proved to be an outstanding prospect with the bat as well. After hitting only 22 home runs in three seasons at the University of Texas, the Dallas native has belted 24 home runs between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco this season alone. Not surprisingly, he says the transition from metal bats to wood has been a smooth one.
“It’s a transition that I acquired in 2005,” said Teagarden of switching to wooden bats. “When you have a wooden bat in your hand, your power is going to come out. You’ve got to square balls up or you’re going to get beat, especially with the good pitching in these leagues. It’s a matter of just fine tuning your swing and working with good hitting coaches. I think the guys in this organization get the most out of their hitters.”
Currently hitting .325 in 24 games with the Frisco RoughRiders, Teagarden is once again quick to credit his coaching staff for his development as a hitter.
“I’ve worked with some of the hitting coaches – Brant Brown and Scott Coolbaugh,” he said. “It’s a daily thing for me just to continue to put together a decent swing. I’ve put more quality at bats and I’m starting to hit with a little more power than I have in the past. It’s just a part of developing when you’re in the minor leagues. I feel like I’m continuing to work on that and improve as a hitter.”
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