The Rangers picked pitcher Cody Buckel
in the second round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. He threw very well last year in his first full season, posting an 8-3 record with a 2.61 ERA with Class A Hickory of the South Atlantic League.
But the right-hander pushes himself and wanted more in 2012. Buckel spent time over the winter watching videos with good friend Trevor Bauer, MLB.com's No. 8 prospect. They came up with some changes that have helped Buckel become one of the Carolina League's top pitchers this season.
Buckel was 3-1 through his first seven starts for Myrtle Beach with a league-leading 1.37 ERA through Monday's games. He also ranked first with 48 strikeouts.
"Overall, it's a better me, so to speak," Buckel said. "You go out there and you start being able to throw pitches you want to. ... It's a huge confidence [boost]."
What Buckel and Bauer did was kind of scientific and changed how the right-hander threw the ball. They studied video of throwing mechanics -- not just from pitchers.
They reviewed videos of players like Derek Jeter and Ivan Rodriguez to check out the way their arms passed or moved when throwing. They weren't as concerned with arm angle and discovered that Buckel's delivery passed more toward first base when pitching last year.
They watched other pitchers like Tim Lincecum. All of that studying helped Buckel adjust and work on throwing more naturally. This year, he's trying to just let his arm fall.
In other words, if there's any move, the arm would go more toward second, and he's trying to keep it inside his back hip. Overall, Buckel said, it's just his body helping out his arm.
Bauer actually did this himself, and when the pair started working on it in January, they were hopeful. And the results have been positive. The velocity on Buckel's pitches was in the 89-91 mph range last year; this season, he's been around 93-94 and feels stronger.
"It's definitely made me feel like I can go longer into a game," Buckel said. "I don't feel fatigued. It's just a big plus for me."
Buckel also said he's been waking up the morning after his starts and feeling like he could go right back to the mound and start another game. That wasn't the case last year. The tweaking took some work, but it's paying off, although it remains a work-in-progress.
"At first, it was kind of weird," Buckel admitted. "It took about a month to feel comfortable. I'm still tweaking."
Buckel told the Rangers what he was doing and team officials approved. So he continues working on making his motion even better.
Pelicans manager Jason Wood loves what he's seen so far. He said Buckel knows his delivery very well and strives to be the best pitcher he can be.
"He's been outstanding from the get-go," Wood said. "A video doesn't lie. He's been right on track. He's really thrown the ball well."
Bad luck: Sandy Leon caught for Potomac last year and was probably the league's top defensive backstop, throwing out 53 percent of potential base-stealers. He made his Major League debut with the Nationals on Monday night but sprained his ankle while blocking the plate and went on the 15-day disabled list.
Wasted effort: Wilmington certainly had its chances Monday against Lynchburg, but the Blue Rocks couldn't convert many of them. They totaled 15 hits but went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base in a 5-4 loss.
A perfect game: Jackie Bradley went 5-for-5 for Salem in Sunday's 9-4 victory over Myrtle Beach. He finished with four singles and a double, drove in three runs and scored once out of the leadoff spot.