Angels' Grichuk gets career underway

Angels' Grichuk gets career underway

The image of a young high school phenom making his professional debut is one of an awestruck, wide-eyed teenager from Small Town USA trying to adjust to the speed and pressures of pro ball, the higher level of competition and the big crowds.

Angels first-round pick Randal Grichuk definitely sees the jump in talent just two games into his professional career. But the intensity of a packed house for the No. 24 overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft? Not so much.

"It was pretty cool," Grichuk said of his debut, a 1-for-4 performance in the Rookie-level Arizona League on Monday. "There are no fans, so it's pretty much like a high school game. But it's one of those steps you have to go through."

The AZL is known, along with the Gulf Coast League in Florida, as a "complex league," meaning the games take place in the Spring Training complexes of the Major League organizations. Tickets aren't sold and no one fills the seats. It's typically a league for an organization's youngest, and most recently signed players. It's about instruction and getting a player's feet wet in the pro game.

"I can see that," said the 17-year-old Grichuk who has gone a combined 1-for-8 in two games. "In pregame practices, they do a lot of instructing, on the basepaths, for fielding and throwing. They don't mess with your swing too much unless they see something that's totally messing you up. You just go out, play and see how you do."

The biggest thing Grichuk is seeing in the early going is that he's going to have to adjust to the higher level of pitching. As a high schooler in Texas, the toolsy outfielder generally faced pitchers who topped out in the 75-80 mph range. Suffice it to say the arms in the AZL have a little more giddyup.

"You're seeing 90-plus with every pitcher," Grichuk said. "In this league, they're trying to throw their hardest to get to the next level. The catchers have guns. It's not like high school ball, where you see 70s-80s and catchers who can't throw."

It's also been a while since Grichuk has seen any pitching of any quality. His last high school game came in late May, meaning a month went by from the end of his season to the time he signed on June 20 and made his debut with the Angels. It's understandable that there's some rust to shake off, in addition to getting used to the pro level of play.

"I haven't seen live pitching. I've seen batting practice pitching, and that's a different ballgame," Grichuk said. "It's going to take some adjusting. Give me some time and, hopefully, I can get used to it.

"Right now, I'm just a little over-aggressive and not seeing the ball right now. Hopefully I can get my eye down and stop being so aggressive."

In his second game, Grichuk went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts before the team had a day off on Wednesday. But this is where the fact that the outfielder signed less than two weeks after he was drafted could prove to be a huge advantage. By not holding out for any length of time, Grichuk will reap the benefits of the entire 54-game AZL schedule, putting him ahead of the game compared to those who push it closer to the Aug. 17 signing deadline.

"It was a good thing that I signed early, got out here and got to start playing," Grichuk said. "It's better than having only so much time to adjust to it. By then, you're adjusting and then the season is over.

"Hopefully, I can take a few weeks to get adjusted and then I'll be rolling. That will take me into instructs and Spring Training on a good note, instead of struggling and still trying to get it down."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.