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NWL notes: Rangers' Tate easing into role

Spokane taking it slow with top pick following heavy college workload
July 10, 2015

With just 10 days separating his final collegiate start at the University of California-Santa Barbara on May 29 and his fourth overall selection in the 2015 MLB Draft, it's already been a whirlwind summer for Spokane pitcher Dillon Tate.

But despite all of the hype surrounding the first pitcher drafted, Tate remains fixated on the present.

"That's what I live for," Tate said of his ability to be in the moment. "I just have to focus on what I'm doing right then and there. I'm trying to start anew and make a name for myself again."

Tate made plenty out of his name in three seasons at UCSB. Serving as the closer in 2014 during his sophomore season, he led the team in both saves (12) and ERA (1.45) and was a Second Team All-Big West selection after striking out 46 hitters in 43 1/3 innings pitched.

After all the success the year prior, Tate and his 98 mph fastball were named the Friday starter for the Gauchos in 2015. The Preseason All-America selection didn't disappoint, compiling a 2.26 ERA to go along with his 10-6 record and 111-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Tate's name was called early June 8, getting selected fourth overall in the Draft by the Texas Rangers. Sitting alongside friends and family at his home in Southern California, he heard his name called before any other pitcher.

And while being a top-5 pick usually comes with the baggage of steep expectations, Tate says the only pressure he deals with is from his harshest critic -- himself.

"I don't feel any pressure from an external source, but rather more of a need to live up to my own expectations," Tate said. "I have very high standards set for myself, and that's how it's supposed to be."

Upon being drafted, Tate traveled to Arlington and signed his first professional contract. He felt it was an automatic fit.

"I felt really comfortable, like I belonged there in that clubhouse. It was an awesome moment, but it didn't seem surreal because I expected to be there," Tate said.

Tate basked in the glory of his signing day tour, soaking up all that Globe Life Park in Arlington -- and potentially his future -- had to offer. But while the reality of the Major Leagues may be closer than ever for the 6-foot-2 right-hander, he's adamant that the Minor Leagues have plenty to offer.

"The hitters are different here, and the style of pitching is a lot different here than in college," Tate said. "I have to learn to adjust to a new style of throwing."

Tate confronted that learning curve first-hand in his lone professional outing at Salem-Keizer on June 26. He walked three before escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam. Now 14 days after his professional debut, Tate has yet to return to the mound for the Indians.  

His long layoff isn't performance-based, rather a remedy to resolve his career-high 103 1/3 innings pitched this season at UCSB. And while his absence from the mound may delay some of the development process, it isn't preventing Tate from soaking up his time in the Northwest League.

"I have an opportunity to watch others who are throwing, whether it be on or against [Spokane]," he said. "I'm watching them on the mound, and I think it's something I can learn from."

For Tate, the NWL will serve as a small blip on a much larger professional radar. And while his goal of manning the mound in a Rangers uniform far outstretches Spokane's city limits, he knows this is the place that will guide him down the proper path.

"I know I'm capable of performing at the [Major League] level, but if I had it all down pat and knew everything about myself, then I'd already be there," Tate said. "I have a lot of learning to do."

In brief

Clark's start: It's been a noteworthy start for Spokane outfielder Ledarius Clark, who extended his hitting streak to 18 games with four more hits July 8. Clark, a 2015 12th-round selection by the Texas Rangers, went 4-for-5 with two home runs, pushing his batting average to a Northwest League-best .436. Clark has notched multiple hits in 10 consecutive games, batting .500 during that stretch (23-for-46). He has homered three times since July 4 and is tied for first in the NWL with five long balls. In addition to batting average and homers, Clark also ranks first in slugging percentage (.731) and stolen bases (12) and is tied for third in RBIs (16).

Case in point: Andrew Case has emerged as the door slammer at the back end of Vancouver's bullpen after converting four of his five save attempts in eight Northwest League appearances thus far. Case executed four consecutive saves to start the season, placing him atop the NWL in that category. He has compiled a 1.08 ERA, allowing just a single run in 8 1/3 innings. Furthermore, Case's only blown save came in a one-run game when he inherited runners on first and third with only one out.

Everything Everett: It's been an explosive start to the 2015 season for the Everett AquaSox, who are swinging their way to the top of the Northwest League. Everett leads the NWL in nearly every offensive category, ranking first in batting average (.271), RBIs (102) and runs scored (123). In addition, the AquaSox rank third in the league with 269 total bases and 31 stolen bases. Everett's offensive explosion has jolted the team to a tie for first place in the North Division with a 13-8 record.

Brandon Chinn is a contributor to