If you play MLB The Show Franchise Mode and bother to check your inbox feature, you’re aware that each organization hands out Minor League Player Awards at the end of each month. The video game format is a little loose, but as for the reality we live in, the Texas Rangers recently handed out four different awards.
A player of the month, given to Hickory (A ball) outfielder Luke Tendler.
Pitcher of the month went to Jerad Eickhoff, who started in Frisco (AA) before being promoted to Round Rock (AAA).
Defender of the month was handed out to Round Rock outfielder Jared Hoying.
And relief pitcher of the month went to Cody Ege, who like Eickhoff split the month between two levels. High Desert (High-A) and Frisco.
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I caught up with Ege, the 15th round pick by the Rangers in 2013, in Frisco earlier today. By the way, I was really nervous.
Me: First off, congrats on being named the Rangers Minor League Reliever of the Month for April, what does that award mean to you?
Cody Ege: It means a lot, that was a goal of mine last year. I talked to a couple of relief pitchers, and we kind of challenged each other. We wanted to be the relief pitcher of the month. Not really a lot of credit for it or whatever, but that’s something you can hold for yourself, you know, to know you had a good month.
So we tried for it last year and I tried for it at the end of the year and was definitely focusing on it then, but to go to High Desert and I just really wanted to pitch well. That’s a hitters league and to earn it there, that was a great accomplishment for me.
Me: You breezed through A ball, what do you attribute that success to?
Ege: I think just day by day, you know just going out and trying to get better. Especially being a pitcher you can’t throw everyday like you can hit. I can’t go throw 10,000 balls so it’s paying attention to detail and every single rep. Just trying to be better today than I was yesterday.
Me: Many consider the jump from High-A to Double-AA (Ege promoted May 7th) the most difficult in the Minor Leagues, how has it been for you?
Ege: I’d say it’s definitely different from going to Low-A to High-A. Hitters here are a lot more patient and have a plan. Here you have to use the mental side of baseball a lot more. A lot of the guys have the same talents as you or whatever it is, it’s guys that have plans and you gotta know how to pitch to guys who have plans and got to try to recognize what they’re trying to do at the plate and things like that. So I think up here it’s a lot more preparation and a lot bigger mental challenge.
Me: Your strikeout rates have been really impressive (11.8 K/9 in MiLB career, 16.9 in 9 games for High Desert in 2015), would you say that’s the best part of your pitching arsenal?
Ege: It’s funny, in High Desert I was never trying to strike anybody out. I was just trying to get ground ball outs, keep the ball down and keep guys uncomfortable in the box. Because there if you leave a ball up or make a mistake pitch, it’s a jack (homer, for those uninitiated) and I saw that my first outing. So I took it as, I’m just going to keep the ball down and stay aggressive. If I get behind in the count, guys are going to be hitting home runs left and right off me. So, it was my goal to work ahead of hitters, stay ahead of hitters and put them away when it was time to.
Ege signs his contract with the Rangers.
Photo Credit: KTIV News
Me: RoughRiders Pitching Coach Jeff Andrews is one of the more revered pitching coaches in all of Minor League Baseball, what’s one thing in particular you want to work on with him in Frisco?
Ege: I think the big thing with him is the mental side. He’s taught me a lot already being here. Just how to plan, how to attack, how to prepare each and everyday. So, like every other coach I just try to pick his brain a little bit. Learn what I can, especially from the older pitchers here, guys who have been here and been through success. Just hang around those guys, obviously they’re doing something right and I got to figure out what that is.
The inevitable question…
Me: What’s it like having Josh Hamilton around?
Ege: It’s awesome. He’s a good dude. He comes in, we’re all kind of gun shy around him. But he comes up, shakes everybody’s hand and says what’s up. Just eases the tension real easily and on the field it helps having him in the lineup. It’s great having him here.
You can follow Cody Ege on Twitter @cpege13
And in case you missed it, here’s the Josh Hamilton Interview.