Texas Rangers Prospect Cody Buckel and the Case of the Yips
Baseball is a mental game and every ball player has heard this throughout their playing days. Baseball is a game of failure and requires you to be “mentally tough” to succeed. How else can a major league hitter fail seven out of ten times and still be considered at the top of their game (equating to a .300 AVG). Baseball is a game that is played between the ears as well as between the lines. Baseball players rely on their mind as it helps them remain confident when failure is ever present.
Unfortunately the mind, like all body parts, can wear and eventually break down. When this happens, mundane tasks that used to be simple for someone, like throwing a baseball, become almost impossible to complete. The mind, sometimes overnight, becomes broken. This “sickness” called “the yips” has gotten a hold of its latest victim, Texas Rangers minor league pitcher Cody Buckel.
Tuesday afternoon Jason Cole tweeted that the Rangers have moved the struggling right handed from the Double A Frisco Roughriders back to extended spring training. The Rangers front office appears concerned that the righty is suffering from mental issues rather than from fatigue or injury.
Going into the spring, some scouts thought Buckel, a 2nd round pick in 2010, could be a candidate to make a push towards making the back end of the Rangers rotation. Ranking as the number 4 prospect in the entire organization, Buckel got off to a very slow start in the spring. Struggling to find his command, Buckel only appeared in one big league spring training game, and the results were far from stellar. In just the one inning pitched, Buckel gave up 4 hits, allowed 7 earned runs while issuing 5 walks.
The Rangers hoped he could get things back on track once the pressure of making the squad was off the 21 year old, unfortunately this wasn’t the case. In 5 games started Buckel lost all 5 decisions with an ERA of 20.25 and 28 walks. The Rangers temporarily tried him out of the bullpen before ultimately making the move to send him to extended spring training. The team is hoping that some time away from game situations and interacting individually with some of their staff will help Buckel return to form where last year he went a combined 10-8 with an impressive 2.49 ERA.
The yips, although uncommon, has struck a handful of players in the past. In the late 90’s they struck then New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch and they also redefined the career of star prospect of then pitcher, now turned outfielder, Rick Ankiel. Most recently the yips had their affect on Jarrod Saltalamacchia when he was in the minors with Texas just a few seasons ago.
The time in the extended spring training hopefully with help Cody Buckel get back on track to the road to the majors.