With only one team in the system earning a victory, Monday was not the most exciting day down on the…
Ragsdale back in the field
Although Ragsdale is a new name to most Rangers fans, this is not his first rodeo, and he certainly is more talented than the run-of-the-mill minor league free agent signing.
A native of Jonesboro, Ark., Ragsdale was a second round pick of the Mets in the 2001 MLB Draft. Ragsdale, who was the Mets' fourth pick of the draft, was selected behind big league mainstays Aaron Heilman and David Wright.
Ragsdale has always been well-known for his athleticism, as he was also a standout basketball player at Jonesboro's Nettleton High School. The 6-foot-4 shortstop put his skill on display when he swiped 34 bases between short-season Brooklyn and Single-A Columbia in 2002.
Despite his raw talent and athleticism, Ragsdale struggled offensively, hitting just .193 through his first four professional seasons. With the Arkansas native in need of a big season to keep his baseball career afloat, he responded by batting a career-best .245 with 21 doubles, 11 triples, and 19 home runs between High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton in 2005.
But Ragsdale was unable to capitalize on his strong season over the next two years. After he batted .192 in 43 games last season, the Mets decided to move him to the mound.
In addition to his athletic ability, which makes him an excellent defender at just about any infield position, Ragsdale possesses an outstanding arm. The righty logged four innings with the rookie-level GCL Mets last summer, giving up just one hit. He didn't allow a run, walked three and struck out five.
Ragsdale signed with the Rangers shortly after becoming a six-year minor league free agent in the offseason. The Rangers elected to move Ragsdale back to the field, where he has worked out at shortstop, second base, and third base with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders.
Lone Star Dugout spoke with Ragsdale after a recent game in which he was 1-for-2 with a two-run homer.
Jason Cole: The Mets moved you to the mound late last season. What was that like for you?
Corey Ragsdale: It was different. It was the kind of situation that worked out them with me being a free agent. They didn't really have plans for me anymore as an infielder. Knowing that I was going to be a free agent, I think they just took a chance on something for a little while to see if it worked. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, but I wanted to be back on the infield doing what I love. Playing the infield is what I have always done and I look forward to getting over here and working with [the Rangers'] hitting guys. So far it has been going pretty good. I'm choosing to look forward.
Cole: Were any teams talking to you about being a pitcher when you were a free agent this past offseason?
Ragsdale: Yeah, there was some interest in that. I had interest in both I guess. But like I said, I really made the decision early that I didn't want to go that route. I wanted to go back to playing the field. If I figure a couple of things out, I figure that is where I have the most value at.
Cole: You are primarily a shortstop, but with Andrus here you have been forced to spend time at second and third. Have you played those positions at all in the past?
Ragsdale: I played third a little last year in Double-A with the Mets. Really I had never played second base until there were about three games left in spring training this year. It's alright. There are little things different here and there at both places. I guess that's the good thing about being a good athlete – you can kind of adjust.
Cole: What has been the most difficult adjustment for you to make at second base, if there is one?
Ragsdale: I don't want to say it's easier, but at shortstop you have to work a lot harder to get to balls. At second, you don't lay back, but you can kind of pick your hop and take your time. I would say the biggest thing at second is that everything is backwards as far as double plays. You're going the complete opposite way that you're used to. At short, everything is going to the left or in front of you. You're kind of going backwards trying to turn double plays. That is probably the toughest thing I guess.
Cole: Can you take me through the at-bat where you hit the home run tonight?
Ragsdale: We worked early. It's funny. This spring we didn't change anything with my swing. I just set up a little earlier. There were five or six guys that had early work today and that's what Bo [Rangers roving hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger] and I worked on. Bo happened to say something right before I went up there. I just thought about it – get it down early. I saw the first pitch real good, it was down. I said ‘ok, I'm going to look middle-away right here and try to hammer something'. Luckily he threw it middle-away, I closed my eyes, and swung real hard.
Cole: When you take batting practice and work in games so far this year, what has been your main focus?
Ragsdale: That's it. I had a great spring training. We have been working on my timing and getting ready early, but that's it. It's a struggle sometimes because I've always been kind of a collision hitter at the plate and I'm really trying to revert back. It really helps me see the ball. I am trying to get the timing and get set and ready earlier.
Cole: Does it make it more difficult as a hitter not knowing what position you're going to play until you get to the ballpark each day?
Ragsdale: No, I don't care. As long as I'm in the lineup, I don't care where it's at. I'll play it. That's the thing. I'm just trying to get more consistent at the plate and whatever it takes, I look forward to that.
Cole: Have you set any goals for the season?
Ragsdale: Yeah. I'm trying to take in everything that these guys teach me. I don't want to say this just because I have gotten off to a decent start and had a great spring, but I feel like I've learned a lot from these guys. I'm just trying to soak that in, what I'm learning, and become consistent with that. If I can become consistent with that, the results are going to take care of themselves. I want to do that first and foremost and whatever happens, happens.
Cole: You've talked quite a bit about the Rangers teaching you things in spring training. What exactly did they teach you that seemed to click in your mind?
Ragsdale: Just about teaching a little bit better load. We talked about a better load. They stood me up a little bit and as far as load, we talked about separation a lot. That was something that was kind of new to me. Instead of just a load, I was separating, getting in a good position, and then getting ready with my foot down early and seeing the ball. It has made a big difference. Bo harps on that. I know Rudy teaches that with the big league club and Bo teaches that to us. He harps on that a lot. Foot down, get ready early, and that's going to help you see it. When a lot of guys struggle, they are kind of getting there late and rushing things. When you see guys slow it down and get there early, you know they are locked in. That's a couple of things we really talked about.
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