Carolina notes: Rangers' Bahr finding rhythm

Wood Ducks righty on stellar run after last year's in-season trade

A fifth-round pick in 2017, Jason Bahr is 2-1 with a 2.04 ERA over seven starts for Down East this season. (Ken Inness/MiLB.com)

By Damien Sordelett / Special to MiLB.com | May 22, 2019 11:00 AM

Jason Bahr's introduction to the Carolina League last July not only involved learning the names of his Down East Wood Ducks teammates, but getting acquainted with an entirely new organization as well.

The Giants' seventh-round selection in the 2017 Draft, Bahr was part of the trade that sent outfielder Austin Jackson and relief pitcher Cory Gearrin to the Rangers, and he had to acclimate himself with his new surroundings on the fly.

It wasn't until Spring Training when Bahr finally had the opportunity to spend time with Texas' Minor League field staff. Those opportunities to absorb information and understand the developmental path they wanted him to take were exactly what Bahr needed in order to get on track with the Rangers' Class A Advanced affiliate.

"I got to meet basically all the coaches and front office guys, and we had a bunch of meetings about how they wanted to approach this year as far as pitching goes," Bahr said. "That kind of clarified how I wanted to go about attacking hitters this year. I would say that was probably the biggest thing."

2019 MiLB include

The 24-year-old continues to shine in a loaded starting rotation that has Down East owning the Carolina League's best record. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.04 ERA and has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his seven starts this season.

The Orlando, Florida, native sported an 11-6 record in 29 appearances with Giants affiliates in 2017 and '18, including a 2-0 mark with a 1.69 ERA in three starts with San Jose of the Class A Advanced California League.

Bahr had up-and-down performances with the Wood Ducks as he worked to find his rhythm with the new organization, going 2-4 with a 5.80 ERA in eight starts last year.

The Spring Training meetings allowed him to find solid footing to continue his development, especially with a clearer look at a particular pitch Bahr needed to refine during the season.

"The first thing was, coming out of Spring Training, they preached to try to work on my breaking balls. I came in this season throwing a lot of sliders, which I think has improved it drastically and critically. It's become a real weapon for me," he said. "The second thing was attacking the zone with fastballs -- up and down in the zone. I think that limits walks and leads to quick outs."

The 6-foot-5, 190-pound Bahr began to turn the corner with his control in his two most recent starts -- he walked two at Winston-Salem on May 10 and then issued only one free pass on May 16 at Potomac -- and that's resulted in fewer pitches.

He threw only 38 pitches (31 strikes) in his five-inning outing at the Nationals.

"Our defense has been amazing. It's been awesome," Bahr said. "It's been really easy to pitch in the zone with confidence because I know that if hitters put it in play, it's most likely going to be an out. That's helped me fill up the zone more and not be afraid of contact."

Bahr entered the professional ranks with a three-pitch arsenal -- fastball, curve and slider -- and the Rangers wanted him to focus more on his slider this season and back off using his curveball.

He steadily began working the slider more and more into his outings and curbed his dependence on the curve. Being forced to utilize the slider allowed him to get a better feel for it, and it's become a go-to offering as a result.

"It's helped a lot. [Backing off using the curveball] has really helped me gain more feel with the slider, quicker than I would have if I was throwing both the same amount," Bahr said. "Fastball command, obviously, has gotten even better off that."

Bahr admitted it took some time to get adjusted to throwing his slider as his main breaking pitch. But as time has progressed, his development with the slider -- and within the Rangers organization -- has helped him evolve into a reliable starting pitcher.

"It took me a little bit to get used to. Overall, it was for the best," he said.

In brief

A linchpin in the rotation: Daniel Lynch's May 8 start at Salem was regrettable. His last two outings? Definitely worth remembering. Lynch, Kansas City's No. 4 prospect and one of three Royals first-round selections from the 2018 Draft, has been nothing short of spectacular for the Wilmington Blue Rocks. He has not allowed a run in 13 straight innings, striking out 11 and scattering five hits. The southpaw fanned a season-high nine in a May 15 victory over Frederick, then got his revenge against Salem by allowing only three hits and striking two in six sterling innings Monday night.

Burning the ground: Salem outfielder Jarren Duran has consistently done one thing well so far this season: go on hitting tears. Boston's No. 10 prospect is on a sizzling stretch yet again. The seventh-round selection from the 2018 Draft owns a 12-game hitting streak through Monday's games and leads the Carolina League with a .405 batting average. He has a staggering 64 hits to go with 13 stolen bases and a whopping 1.017 on-base plus slugging percentage.

Earning his bases: Lynchburg outfielder Oscar Gonzalez attacks every at-bat with an aggressive mind-set. If the 21-year-old sees a pitch he likes, he's swinging each time. Gonzalez has drawn two walks in 162 at-bats this season, and his first free pass came May 13 at home against Carolina. The free-swinging approach hasn't hurt Gonzalez's numbers at the plate. He is tied for third in the Carolina League with 32 RBIs, has clubbed 18 extra-base hits (12 doubles) and boasts the third-best batting average in the league at .364.

Damien Sordelett is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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