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Andrew Doyle is beginning his first full professional season at Single-A Hickory, but he isn’t likely to finish the season there. In fact, Doyle may not even finish the month there.
The University of Oklahoma product was the Texas Rangers’ fourth-round pick in last summer’s draft, and he eventually signed for a slot-level $234,000 bonus. Doyle brings a solid repertoire to the organization, including an upper-80s, low-90s sinker, a low-90s four-seamer, an advanced changeup, and a slider.
The right-hander worked out of the bullpen at short-season Spokane and Hickory after signing last summer, and he missed some bats, recording 33 strikeouts [while walking just six] in 25.2 innings pitched.
As a key three-year contributor at a Big 12 school, Doyle’s stuff and pitchability is likely advanced enough to tackle the High-A California League out of the gates. However, as Doyle explains in the following interview, he worked out a few mechanical kinks with Crawdads pitching coach Brad Holman in Spring Training, and he is continuing to work with Holman for the time being.
Because of his deep repertoire, the Rangers view the 22-year-old as a starting pitcher in the future, but he is working out of the bullpen to begin the 2010 campaign. Doyle made his season debut with Hickory on April 10, logging a scoreless inning while allowing one hit and getting three groundouts.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Doyle for a Q&A session after the game.
Jason Cole: Start off by telling me about your Spring Training. How did you feel it went for you?
Andrew Doyle: I thought Spring Training was kind of up and down. I was working on a lot of mechanical stuff–just staying back over the rubber, not having a stiff backside and having a soft frontside as well. I think I made baby steps to get where I need to mechanic-wise.
I was talking with Danny Clark and working with Brad Holman. I’ve learned a lot working with Brad, and I’m glad that I can get some extra time here with him down in Hickory. I think it’s going to benefit me to work with him as long as possible and get my mechanics where I need them to be to maybe squeeze a little more velocity out of my arm.
Cole: Those mechanical adjustments–were those things you were working on at instructs last year or when you were in Hickory late in 2009?
Doyle: I think, pretty much, they were looking at me at instructs and feeling me out a little bit. When I was at Hickory last year, they were just calling me up to get my feet wet at the higher level. Down at instructs, it was mostly working on that slider–trying to get my slider going.
But when I got down to Spring Training, they talked to me a lot about being more vertical with my pitches. When I say vertical, I mean just having everything go towards the plate instead of a side-to-side motion. Bad habits formed over time throughout my high school and college career, and like I said, I’m taking baby steps–just one ‘pen or one outing at the time. I feel things are going in the right direction.
Cole: How does it benefit you on the mound when you are making those adjustments correctly?
Doyle: Being a sinker guy, when you get rotation in your mechanics, it’s not a sink–it’s more of a run on your pitch. As a two-seamer guy, you want more of the sink than the run. It leaves the ball a little more flat. It also helps with the downward angle on my four-seam fastball, which was the biggest thing I felt like I needed to improve on, because you need a four-seam to complement your two-seam.
Having a flat four-seam was kind of leaving me a little exposed, and it had me throwing more two-seamers than DC wanted me to. It definitely helps with the downward angle–having more deception on the ball.
Cole: How often were you throwing that four-seamer back in college at OU?
Doyle: I pretty much tried to stay with my four-seam when I went away from a righty. The reason you would do that is because you don’t want the two-seam running back into the bat. Pretty much, I primarily use my two-seam armside and either let the ball run away from the lefty’s bat or run more into the handle of the righty’s bat.
Cole: Are you throwing the two-seam more often now than you were in college?
Doyle: I pretty much try to stay with the same mindset–keep the two-seam as more of an armside pitch. When I usually get hurt is when I can’t locate my four-seam away from armside. Because when you’re pounding in, pounding in, pounding in, and you can go back outside and locate that outside fastball–it looks miles away to the hitter’s eye. That’s something DC wanted me to really hammer out, and just get that angle on that pitch–make it more of a swing-and-miss pitch or more of a ground ball pitch, even though it’s a four-seam.
Cole: You have told me that you’re starting the season in the back-end of the Hickory bullpen. Do you know what the plan for you is in general this season?
Doyle: When DC talked to me and told me where I was going, he said that they still see me as a starter, but they’re going to kind of feel out this relieving role. If I succeed in that, with the organization so rich in starting pitching, you’ve got to get innings somewhere.
If I start doing well in a relieving role, they might just turn me into a reliever. Whatever is best for whatever team I’m on is good for me. It doesn’t really matter–starting or coming out of the ‘pen–as long as the team is winning, I’m fine with it.
Cole: One of the things I asked Chad Bell was about everyone pitching well in Hickory. Do you guys feed off that as a pitching staff when everyone is throwing well?
Doyle: Yeah, definitely. Starters definitely set the tone for bullpen guys. Talking about an organization as a whole, just the fact that we’re so rich with pitching makes everybody strive to do well every time they get out there. It’s just competition where ever you’re going to be–good competition.
I think everybody is just kind of feeding off that. It’s fun to watch–especially tonight. I was watching Font and Erlin throw and then Nelo. You’ve got to go out there and match what they do. It’s definitely a lot more fun when you’ve got competition.
Cole: You had our first outing of the season–a scoreless inning. What were your thoughts?
Doyle: I was working on my mechanical stuff. I was just trying to keep the ball down, throw two-seamers, and not try to do too much. Being a sinker guy, I just want to get ground balls, and I got three ground balls tonight. I thought I threw pretty well, but obviously I’m going to keep working hard to get these mechanical issues sorted out.
Cole: You came out of the bullpen in your freshman year at Oklahoma, so you have some relief experience. Do you attack hitters any differently when coming out of the bullpen versus as a starter?
Doyle: Yeah, definitely. Starting pitchers–pretty much first time through the lineup, you want to be primarily fastball if you can get away with it. You don’t want to show too much. You want to hold on to your whole arsenal a little longer so if you need to use that breaking ball in the third or fourth inning, they haven’t seen it before.
As a reliever, you can kind of just come in–the starter has usually established the inside fastball well, so you can pretty much just throw whatever you want. Just the fact that you know you’re only going probably one or two innings means you can amp up a little bit and try to get as much behind it as possible.
Cole: You also got some experience last season as a reliever. Do you feel much of a difference between being a reliever or a starter for you personally?
Doyle: No. Like I said, as a starter, you definitely get a little bit more of a routine going–you know when you’re pitching. That’s nice, but being a reliever, you can get up and get that adrenaline going. When you get that call from Brad to get hot, that’s great too.
Getting to go out there and use your whole arsenal right off the bat definitely complements me well, I think. Just the fact that I can throw my two-seamer and then come back with a changeup or slider right away rather than trying to hide my pitches for two or three innings.
Cole: You mentioned how big of a focus your slider was for you at instructs last year. What are your thoughts on how that has come along?
Doyle: I feel like the consistency of the break is getting a lot better. The consistency of location–that’s still a work in progress. It’s still me being able to feel where I want to throw it, and me needing to know where to throw it in what count.
Brad does a great job–he pretty much worked with me during Spring Training on the slider, too. He has done a great job helping me out mechanic-wise. I know it could take a month or two before everything clicks. But it has helped me a lot, having him there the whole way. It has definitely helped me a lot.
Cole: What is it that helps that slider progress? Is it changing your mechanics, the way you grip the ball, or just throwing it more often?
Doyle: I think the mechanical change has definitely helped. Like I said, the rotational movement with my upper body kind of causes me to get my hand around the ball a little too much. Pretty much working vertical over the plate–I can get my hand out in front further, and I can get on top of the ball better. Those are the two things I have to focus on when I’m throwing that pitch.
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