Matthews Goes To School In Rangers' Extended Spring

ARLINGTON—Lefthander Kevin Matthews isn't lacking many physical attributes, as his ability to dunk a basketball at just 5-foot-11 would suggest.

Matthews was the Rangers' first-round pick last year, and so far no task he has encountered in the weight room or on the field has been too much for him. He feels even stronger after an offseason workout program designed by the Rangers.

But Matthews, 19, has discovered he has much to learn about how to approach the game mentally. As he enters his first full season, a campaign that has started in extended spring training, he's focusing on how to use his brain as much as his brawn.

"As you progress, you have to start using your head more," said Matthews, who starred at Richmond Hill (Ga.) High. "It's not just all physical like it is in high school, where you can just throw fastballs and get away with pitches. You really have to learn how to pitch."

Matthews went 1-3, 2.20 with 30 strikeouts and 18 walks last season in 29 innings between the Rookie-level Arizona League and short-season Spokane. The Rangers have drilled him on how much of his job depends on mental toughness and his ability to hit his spots and execute pitches.

"Coming in, I thought of a lot of different scenarios," he said. "I thought I was physically ready, but what's surprised me is how much it is mental. They always said if you can match your skill level with your talent, you'll be fine."

The Rangers prefer to take it slow with high school picks, using extended spring to monitor the workload they want to put on young pitchers while also building arm strength for a full-season assignment.

"We try to limit them to about 100 innings," farm director Jake Krug said. "So far, we like what we see. The biggest ingredient is that he's another lefthander in system. He's got stuff, and the biggest thing is he competes."

Rangers Roundup

• The Rangers pushed their top prospect, shortstop Jurickson Profar, past high Class A and had him open the season at Double-A Frisco. The switch-hitting Profar, 19, hit two homers in his first 10 games.

• Righthander Yoshinori Tateyama, who spent much of last season in the big leagues, was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock after being reinstated from the disabled list with a back injury.