SCOTTSDALE–It is not the big number that defines Max Schrezer, it is the little ones.
Scherzer received a $4.3 major league contract that included a $3 million signing bonus when he agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks on May 31, the day before negotiating rights expired and he would have returned to the draft after being the D-Backs'™ first-round pick in 2006.
But what gets him through the night is the security of being able to throw strikes.
Schrezer was pleased with his ability to attack hitters at independent Fort Worth and high Class A Visalia, not quite so much so after his promotion to Double-A Mobile.
"At Double-A, the hitters got a lot better. They would wait for their pitch. They wouldn'™t swing at some of the stuff I was throwing before," said Scherzer, who will pitch in relief with Scottsdale of the Arizona Fall League in an attempt to build his innings after 17 minor league starts.
"They were more patient. They really, really wanted to get their pitch. They didn'™t swing at stuff out of the zone very often. You could still expand with two strikes, but the hitters very rarely expanded the zone before that.
"That'™s what frustrated me. I wasn'™t able to throw strikes or throw as many first-pitch strikes. Those are the numbers that mean the most to me. You take care of those numbers, and everything else will fall into place. Strikes and first-pitch strikes. As a pitcher, you have control of those numbers."
Scherzer, who said his fastball registered 99 mph in an outing earlier this week, had virtually no trouble with hitters in his first two summer stops, going 1-0, 0.56 in three appearances with Fort Worth before he signed and 2-0, 0.53 in three starts at Visalia.
He pounded the strike zone at both places, getting 25 strikeouts in 16 innings at Fort Worth and 30 strikeouts in 17 innings at Visalia, where he walked two while giving up five hits and limiting Cal League opponents to a .089 batting average.
Scherzer was 4-4, 3.91 in 14 starts at Mobile, where he still gave up fewer hits and had more strikeouts than innings–64 hits and 76 strikeouts in 74 innings. However, he walked 40 (4.89 per nine innings), finding hitters more discriminating. He also worked on a minor mechanical issue designed to help his control at Mobile, when he found himself rotating out a little early in his delivery.
Schrezer got one of three major league contracts among 2006 first-rounders–Kansas City'™s Luke Hochevar and Detroit'™s Andrew Miller are the others–because of a mid- to high-90s fastball that made him the Big 12 pitcher of the year as a junior at Missouri in 2005.
His repertoire includes a changeup and a slider, and he is spending time in Scottsdale working to perfect his secondary pitches. He gave up a home run in his first appearance but had two scoreless innings, striking out three, in his second. Development of his secondary pitches could determine whether or not he remains a starter or becomes a power reliever, as some scouts have predicted since his days at Missouri.
"I like the way my changeup is going," he said. "I'™m still developing it, but there are more times now when I go into a game and can throw it for a strike. I feel like I'™ve made good progress with it."
Of his slider, "I'™m trying to get the mechanics right and a good feel for it. Some days it'™s OK. Some days it'™s great. I want to limit the days I go out there and it'™s just OK."
• Scottsdale third baseman Evan Longoria (Devil Rays) had three home runs in his first three games while preparing to join Team USA next week in preparation for the 2007 World Cup in Taiwan. Peoria infielder Michael Hollimon (Detroit), another Team USA invitee, hit .444 with an .889 slugging percentage in his first week. Team USA will take 11 players from the AFL.
• Surprise outfielder John Mayberry Jr. (Rangers) hit two home runs on Saturday on a 5-4 victory over Phoenix, his bases-empty homer deciding the game in the eighth, and was leading the league with three homers and a 1.000 slugging percentage.
• Surprise lefthander David Huff (Indians), a supplemental first-round pick in 2006, threw three shutout innings in his initial outing. He had not pitched since being shut down with a sore elbow in June.
• Phoenix righthander Jake Arrieta (Orioles), a fifth-round pick out of Texas Christian last June, did not give up a run in his first three relief appearances while making his pro debut in the Fall League.
• Scottsdale outfielder Eugenio Velez (Giants), a late-season major league callup, had five stolen bases in his first five games.