Taking spring training in stride
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A former standout University of Nevada baseball pitcher who collected scores of postseason awards during his collegiate career had hopes of finding a spot on the Arizona Diamondbacks’ roster.
Instead, the organization recently assigned Braden Shipley to the minor leagues after a month into baseball spring training. For Shipley, though, he is taking his professional career in stride.
With eyes focused on a square table in the back of the clubhouse with teammates on each side of him. Shipley rarely looked up from playing solitaire earlier this month before jogging out to the practice field for morning workouts.
It’s that same type of focus, though, that made Shipley a standout pitcher at Nevada and resulted in the Diamondbacks picking him 15th in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft. His pedigree is impressive. Shipley’s resume as a Wolf Pack earned him Mountain West Co-Pitcher of the Year in 2013 with a 5-3 record and a 2.76 ERA in the conference.
Before Nevada jumped conferences after the 2012 season, Shipley was selected Pitcher of the Year in the Western Athletic Conference and impressed opposing batters with a 2.20 ERA and 9-4 record.
Although Arizona reassigned 13 players — including the 24-year-old Shipley — to the minor leagues, it is the Medford, Oregon, native’s goal to become a top hurler for Arizona.
“I’ve been throwing pretty good,” Shipley said of his month at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, a training complex in Scottsdale. “I feel more comfortable this year. It’s the same game, and I’m trying to throw the ball in the zone. In the spring it’s finding yourself and what you have.”
According to multiple reports out of Arizona, Shipley is one of the top pitching prospects in the Diamondbacks system, and although roster assignments have not been made yet, Shipley could be sent either to Mobile, where he played last year, or Reno, the organization’s Triple-A club. Bets are on Reno.
Since 2013, Shipley has bounced around the Diamondbacks farm system, playing for three teams in 2014 and Mobile, the Double-A affiliate, exclusively last year where he posted a 9-11 record and a 3.50 ERA over 28 games.
Shipley is banking on having a good tour in Reno if he remains in the minors. The season for the Aces opens April 7.
“I’ll have the opportunity to play in front of fans who saw me at Nevada,” Shipley pointed out.
Perhaps Shipley can show his former coach Gary Powers how he has progressed in three seasons.
“I have talked to coach a few times, but I haven’t talked to him much in a while,” Shipley said. “But I sure hope he is enjoying retirement.”
Reno Manager Phil Nevin saw Shipley pitch several times in spring training.
“I’ve seen a few outings,” Nevin said. “He is throwing to be a leader. He has done a find job in his outings.”
If Shipley comes to Reno instead of Mobile, Nevin had a word of advice for the hard-throwing right-hander: “Reno is a tough place to pitch and mentally tough to play.”
But Shipley knows Reno’s idiosyncrasies already, a former university coach’s approach for hard playing, and the determination — both mentally and physically — to show his mettle to the hometown fans who once saw him light up opposing batters with his stellar pitching for the Silver and Blue.