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Examiner
  • Tepesch makes Ranger rotation

  • Nick Tepesch started spring training with a bang – pitching two scoreless innings that included striking out the side against the Kansas City Royals.

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  • Nick Tepesch started spring training with a bang – pitching two scoreless innings that included striking out the side against the Kansas City Royals.
    He ended it with an exclamation point, making the Texas Rangers roster as the No. 5 starter on the talent-rich team that advanced to the World Series in 2010 and 2011.
    “It’s all pretty exciting,” Tepesch said by phone Friday morning. “It’s been my dream for about as long as I can remember, and now it looks like it’s coming true.”
    Because the Rangers don’t need a fifth starter early in the season, Tepesch will start 2013 with AAA Red Rock and start April 4. He is then scheduled to join the Rangers in Arlington for his first big-league start April 9 against Tampa Bay.
    And his high school coach will be in attendance.
    “I’ve saved up my Southwest Airlines miles and I’m flying down to see him pitch the ninth,” former Blue Springs coach Brad Mayfield said. “We went down and saw him in spring training, and we were going to see him pitch in Surprise, Ariz., but every year the Rangers play Chicago in a weekend series in Las Vegas and he pitched in one of those games, so we got in our car, drove 4 hours and 15 minutes and saw him pitch against the Cubs.”
    Like everyone who knows the 2007 Blue Springs High School grad, Mayfield is thrilled with his success.
    “Nick was as talented and as competitive as any kid I ever coached,” he said. “He kept it all inside, never showed much emotion. But when he had the ball, you knew what to expect.”
    Tepesch and lefty Kyle Barbeck were a talented duo that led the Wildcats to a state championship in 2007.
    “One of the greatest teammates to play with at Blue Springs,” said Barbeck, who is wrapping up his collegiate baseball career at the University of Missouri, “and I'll never forget our state championship game together. Just winning state and being a one-two punch like we were was really special."
    Tepesch chuckles when asked about his first appearance against a major league team this past spring.
    “Pretty ironic that it was against the Royals,” said Tepesch, the 2007 Gatorade Missouri High School Player of the Year grew up in the shadow of Kauffman Stadium. “This is all still like a dream. I can’t believe I’m playing professional baseball and that my first spring training appearance was against the Royals. We share the same complex with the Royals, and I pitched in an intrasquad game, but I never really thought about pitching against them although I knew it would probably happen.”
    As Tepesch warmed up in the bullpen, he was pleased with his sinker. The big right-hander used it as his out pitch, as he struck out the side in the third and worked a scoreless fourth inning, that included a double-play ball that followed a one-out bunt single.
    Page 2 of 3 - Tepesch caught former American League MVP Miguel Tejada and Max Ramirez looking before Johnny Giavotella went down swinging on a full count.
    "Nick has a cannon for an arm,” said former Blue Springs teammate Jordan Whitworth. “He has always had a great work ethic, not to mention a slider that is as good if not better than any other pitcher in the major leagues.
    “I played with Tep from ages 6 to the end of high school, and there is a reason he has had this type of success. Nick's humility is his best attribute. He has been the best player on every team he has played for and yet he still knows he can work to get better and lead by example. I respect Nick more than any other player I've ever played with. I feel honored to have played with him."
    Mike Rooney, who managed Tepesch’s American Legion Rod’s Sports A’s team, feels the same way.
    “No one young man deserves an honor like making a big league team any more than Nick,” Rooney said. “He worked as hard as anyone I ever coached, and you could never tell he was the best player on the team by the way he acted. He was humble and really cared about his teammates. We’re all excited for him.”
    Tepesch, who was an academic all-American at the University of Missouri, made a real impact in the Rangers’ farm system last year. He was 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA at Class A Myrtle Beach last season, combining with Jimmy Reyes for a 3-0 no-hit victory over Wilmington in which he threw 7 1/3 innings.
    He was then promoted to AA Frisco (Texas), where he was 6-3 with a 4.28 ERA.
    “This sure beats working a real job,” Tepesch said. “But I do see it as a job. I am trying to make a Major League Baseball roster, and it happens to be with one of the best teams in baseball. I never got too high or too low this spring. I had some good outings and some bad outings, and I guess I had enough good ones to make the team.”
    Tepesch enjoyed an all-state and all-American career at Blue Springs, where he was 9-0 with a 1.50 ERA and .410 batting average for the state champion Wildcats his senior year.
    “He could swing the bat a little bit,” Barbeck said as Tepesch played first base when he was not dominating on the mound.
    Added Tepesch: “I was so fortunate to have great coaches before I got to high school, and then in high school and with the A’s. I still keep in touch with those guys. I can’t imagine what it would be like to come to Kansas City with the Rangers and pitch against the Royals.”
    Page 3 of 3 - When he does, he will have his own cheering section.
    “I don’t think too far ahead, I just like to take it day by day,” said Tepesch, who doesn’t even have a place to live in Arlington yet. “My agent and some of the veteran guys on the team are going to help me out with that.
    “That way, I can just concentrate on the important things.”
    Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC
     
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