Jordan Schafer’s New Role with Cards

Jordan Schafer

In 2016 the Cardinals found what they thought a spark for their outfield with a power bat named Jeremy Hazelbaker. Well with Hazelbaker gone it might look like they may have found that spark again by the name of Jordan Schafer. Jordan a former third-round pick by Atlanta in the 2005 draft, is in camp as a reliever/outfielder/pinch runner. Schafer has 103 steals in just more than five big-league seasons.but, of all his abilities (Schafer has a .228 batting average) it is his pitching that most intrigues the Cardinals. They have seen the other skill sets on a more extensive basis because Schafer has been a pitcher for just one season.

The lefthanded-batting Schafer, after he was signed in December to a minor-league contract, was told by the Cardinals’ front office to prepare for both work as a pitcher and as an outfielder. He plays all three outfield positions.

The 2015 season, Schafer’s last as a full-time position player, ended with Minnesota when he went on the disabled list with a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee in May and when he got healthy, he was released in July after just 69 at-bats. In January a year ago, Schafer signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers and Rick Knapp, the minor league pitching coordinator who previously had been with the Twins, said to Schafer, “Hey, have you ever thought of giving pitching a shot?”

“Not really,” was Schafer’s initial response. But he decided to try it as the Dodgers indicated they were thinking of him as a hybrid player. Schafer, however, never did play the field much last year for Class AA Tulsa and Class AAA Oklahoma. In his new day job, Schafer, pitched 49 1/3 total innings of relief, posting a 3.83 earned run average. But he struck out 59 and walked only 18, holding lefthanded batters to a 189 average,

As a position player, it has been mostly downhill for Schafer after his first big-league plate appearance when, with Atlanta, he homered off Philadelphia’s Bret Myers in 2009, becoming the first big leaguer to homer in his initial plate appearance on Opening Day.

His best big-league season probably came in 2014. Schafer struggled in hitting .163 at Atlanta, but he rebounded to batt 285 for Minnesota in 130 at-bats, stealing 15 bases in 17 attempts at both stops.

 Schafer said he has thrown as hard as 94 miles an hour and he mixed a curveball into his assortment in his first season as an outfielder. Now, he is trying to incorporate the two-seam sinkerball, changeup and a slider he used successfully late last seas

“It’s not really the velocity of the ball,” Schafer said. “It’s the movement and location of the ball. Having been a position player has helped me pitching-wise. Especially pitching against lefties, I try to do what I didn’t like as a hitter.”

Schafer almost became a pitcher at the start of his major league career. He said Atlanta executive John Hart, who was the GM at Texas in 2005, told Schafer that he would have been drafted by the Rangers as hurler if he wasn’t already taken. The Braves chose Schafer on the pick ahead of Texas.

Later on, after Hart had joined the Braves, he suggested that Schafer could come back as a reliever when Schafer he was through as a position player. At the moment, Schafer said he didn’t think that time necessarily had come.

“But that was something that sunk into my head,” he said, “especially when someone who’s that much respected in the game, says that.”

Asked if he ever had appeared in the field and pitched in ths same game, Schafer smiled and said, “I have not, but I’ve been told to be ready to do that. There’s tons of possibilities.”

And, perhaps a new career to supplant the one which really never got off the ground.

“Rarely in this game do you get a second chance,” said Schafer. “I feel this is an opportunity for me to right those wrongs.”

Source: Rick Hummel

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