If you throw strikes, they will come.
Those may not quite have been the exact words of The Voice in Field of Dreams, but Oakland Athletic reliever Evan Scribner is living proof of that. Command your pitches, regardless of your background, and you will have baseball success.
Scribner attended tiny Shepaug Valley High School- its last graduating class had 78 students- in Litchfield County, Connecticut before enrolling in Central Connecticut. But Scribner threw strikes in high school and was able to play Division I despite hailing from a tiny program.
CCSU has had just one player in its history drafted in the first 10 rounds- and that was back in the late 60s- but Scribner threw enough strikes with enough movement and enough velocity in college to be selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 26th round of the 2007 Draft. In 288 career innings at Central, he struck out 224, walked just 57 and left as one of the school’s all time leaders in both wins and saves.
“I think its having consistent mechanics, a consistent delivery and being able to repeat the mechanics and delivery every single time you throw a pitch,” Scribner credits his command. “What helped me the most, back when I was in college and in the NECBL, is that I was a starter. Being able to pitch seven, eight and nine innings helped me with my control, by letting me staying in games by not walking anyone. When I became a reliever, it carried right over.”
Scribner certainly threw strikes as a member of the 2005 North Adams SteepleCats. He fanned 48 while yielding just eight free passes during the summer.
“Evan sticks out from most collegiate pitchers because of his complete command of his pitches,” noted North Adams GM Sean McGrath. “He could throw any pitch at any time for a strike.
“He certainly had a summer to remember in the NECBL with the SteepleCats. We had a great team, but by the end of the season, we were very thin with healthy players and arms. Evan always took the ball and gave the team a tremendous effort whenever he was asked,” McGrath continued. “He made eight starts and averaged almost seven innings per outing. At the end of our season, I recall him telling us that he could pitch on short rest if we advanced in the postseason. That says a lot about his desire and commitment to the game.”
“The coolest thing for me,” Scribner remembered about his time in the NECBL “was, when I started playing pro ball, there were a bunch of guys from my team that were also playing pro ball. I got to play against them. It was nice to know, going into the game, that I knew a little about them and how they played.”
Scribner’s pro career started in the Diamondbacks organization. While he was still in High-A, he received a unique compliment: he was traded straight up to San Diego for long time slugger Tony Clark, who finished his Major League career with over 250 homers.
“That’s probably when I realized I could make it to the Big Leagues some day.”
He continued, “My first time changing organizations was weird because I had played with everybody with the Diamondbacks for a year. I knew everybody and was comfortable there. All of a sudden, I had to leave, say Good-Bye and the next game day I was with another team and had to get to know everyone else. The differences between organizations are pretty significant. Some are more laid back, some are more on top of things. They all have different rules and traditions.”
Yet as a Diamondback, a Padre or an Oakland Athletic, Scribner continued to throw strikes and advance up organizational ladders. After toiling four seasons in the Minors, where he assembled a better than 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio, Scribner debuted on April 26th, 2011 for San Diego.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be,” replied Scribner on his debut. “I was probably more nervous when we played the Red Sox later in the year since I had to pitch in those games at Fenway with my whole family there. The debut was fun but the best part about it was getting it out of the way.”
Scribner struggled a bit as a Padre, as he fought not just a sore arm but also a torn lat in July of 2011. The 6’3” ex-SteepleCat was claimed by Oakland in the off-season; he has since been an integral piece of one of the hottest teams in baseball- thanks to its bullpen.
On June 11th, the Athletics had just been swept by Arizona. They sat nine games under .500 (26-35) in last place in the A.L. West. Which was exactly where every pundit predicted them to be.
Chalk it up however you want to: Billy Beane’s genius. The emergence of star first-year pitchers Jarrod Parker and Tom Milone, who would be runaway Rookie of the Year candidates in any season except the Mike Trout coronation. The plethora of Peet’s Coffee in the Bay Area. For any and all of those things, Oakland suddenly caught fire and rattled off wins in 50 of their next 75 games to take the Wild Card lead. A huge reason was pitching. On the morning of September 5th, the Athletics’ bullpen boasted the third best ERA and WHIP in Major League Baseball.
Scribner bolstered that bullpen when he was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on June 6th after averaging more than a strikeout per inning on the farm. The righty from the Western part of the Nutmeg State had a 2.66 ERA, 20 strikeouts…and just five walks…in 21 games. His ERA drops to below 1.00 when his two worst outings are removed.
“It’s been really fun. We’ve been winning. The team meshes really well and everyone is friends with everyone else. Nobody really does their own thing; everyone sort of hangs out together,” Scribner observed. “The pitching staff and the whole team is young. It seems like half of the team are rookies. Everybody played with each other in the Minor Leagues and everybody knows what everyone has got. I think the main thing that has helped us the most is our pitching.
“I think we definitely feed of each other. In the bullpen, we’re all friends but there is competition: everybody wants to be the closer or get the set-up job or move up on the list. If those guys are good, you want to be good too so you can beat them out.”
East Coast or West Coast, small school or Big League- the venue doesn’t matter. Scribner keeps throwing strikes and retiring batters.
Evan Scribner’s Advice to the NECBL: “Summer League is a really, really fun league. It’s very similar to how the Minor Leagues are with traveling on the bus and playing every night and living in a different town. I’d say have fun, work on getting better and try to improve yourself every single day. The point of playing there is that the scouts go there, so you get noticed. You have to play every single day like someone is watching you. You have to impress someone.