Rangers' Buckel Hones His Craft At Baseball Ranch

ARLINGTON—The Texas Baseball Ranch in Houston doesn't sound like a place where a kid from Southern California would spend his offseason, but it's a perfect fit for Cody Buckel.

"There's a lot of crazy stuff that you would not consider usual," said Buckel, who has been going to Ron Wolforth's ranch since he was 15. "It's very unusual. It's very uncommon. It's a lot of weird and wacky drills. You'll see me out on the field and say, 'What is he doing?' "

Those who have gotten to know Buckel in the Rangers organization wouldn't say that about the free-spirited 20-year-old, who once starred in a play at Simi Valley (Calif.) High while also pitching well enough to become a second-round pick in the 2010 draft.

But the benefits of his time at the Baseball Ranch, said Buckel, helped him blossom into the Rangers' minor league pitcher of the year for 2012, when he went a combined 10-8, 2.49 between high Class A and Double-A, and helped him nab an invitation to big league spring training for the first time.

He's looking for any edge to get better and to overcome a slight stature (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) that some believe could keep him from being an elite pitcher at baseball's top level.

"I'm not a very big guy, so I've got to do everything I can," Buckel said. "What they do there (at the Baseball Ranch) is help utilize everything in your body as far as storing energy and releasing energy and being connected with your mechanics."

Buckel tinkered with his mechanics over the winter, trying to find a way to add velocity to a fastball that sits in the low 90s. His offspeed pitches, though, are what have carried him so far.

That, and some help from the Baseball Ranch.

"It's very interesting, very scientific and very beneficial to me," Buckel said.

Ranger Roundup

• Also headed to big league camp on invitations are outfielder Joey Butler, righthander Nick Tepesch and catcher Jose Felix. Butler's invitation was based on his strong 2012 season at Triple-A Round Rock, and was not related to a possible 50-game suspension for Nelson Cruz if it's proven he used or possessed performance-enhancing drugs.

• Righthander Neil Ramirez is hoping to use a second straight year at major league camp to begin his rebound from a down 2012 season, when he was demoted from Triple-A to Double-A. "In terms of numbers, I definitely took a step back," he said. "But you've got to look at it as a growing opportunity, and I think it's going to help me in the long run."