Noel Is More Than Legs
LOS ANGELES—It’s hard to believe once you see Rico Noel run, but he says he hasn’t always been the fastest person around.
"No, actually not. Maybe that’s what made me get faster,” the Triple-A Oklahoma City outfielder said. "I’ve never been the fastest in my bunch. I always felt like there was someone faster, so I was pushing, pushing, pushing.
"People always told me, ‘As you get older, you’re going to get slower.’ That’s always pushed me, too. I always tried to educate myself on ways to get faster, train better, get the most out of (my speed).”
Speed got Noel to the major leagues in 2015. After asking for his release from the Padres at midseason, Noel signed with the Yankees and was a September callup, appearing in 15 games almost exclusively as a pinch-runner—he stole five bases in seven attempts and scored five runs.
But when the 27-year-old Noel signed with the Dodgers as a minor league free agent in December, he wanted to show he had more to offer than his legs.
"I’m here to be an all-around player and swing the bat, as well,” Noel said.
"I don’t really look at myself as a pinch-runner. That’s not me. I’m here to showcase everything I can do. Obviously, speed being my biggest asset, that’s going to be looked at more with me. But there’s a lot more to my game.”
There is actually less to his game now.
A fifth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina in 2010, Noel began switch-hitting—at the Padres behest—at high Class A Lake Elsinore in 2012, which was an obvious attempt to take advantage of his speed. He stole 90 bases that year in the California League, but last year, Noel abandoned the left side.
Noel said he "learned a lot about hitting” while trying to build a lefthanded swing that he can now bring to bear more aggressively from his natural right side.
• More than 95 percent of Sam LeCure’s 250 big league appearances came out of the bullpen, but the righthander has been starting at Oklahoma City after being signed by the Dodgers. He went 0-1, 4.42 in his first four starts.
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• The Dodgers continued to collect experienced relievers on minor league contracts, adding lefthander Joe Thatcher to LeCure and righthander Dale Thayer. Thatcher was assigned to Oklahoma City in late April.