PHOENIX—Righthander Justin Choate spent the 2013 season on the move, and the offseason was no exception.
As a player included in the Diamondbacks’ trade that sent Heath Bell to the Rays, Choate may finally have a place to call home.
Relying on an effective two-seam fastball, Choate completed his first pro season as the de-facto closer for short-season Hudson Valley and posted a 1-2, 2.88 record and six saves.
Getting there was the fun part. Although one team particularly seemed interested, Choate was not drafted out of Stephen F. Austin State last summer before catching the eye of Rays scouts during a post-draft workout. Caught in a numbers shuffle, Choate signed with Roswell of the independent Pecos League and made one start there before the Rays gave him a contract.
“It was disappointing,” Choate, 23, said about not being drafted after a senior season in which he was 5-2, 3.93 as a starter. “I had a chip on my shoulder going into the independent league for the three days I was there. But everything happens for a reason. I probably wouldn’t have worked as hard.”
The 6-foot, 170-pound Choate primarily uses a two-seamer that routinely reaches 91-93 mph and mixes in the occasional curveball and changeup. Like many sinkerballers, his ball can move more when the velocity is on the lower end.
Choate was used exclusively in relief at Hudson Valley because the Rays were looking to temper his workload after the college season. He threw four innings at a time several times before manager Michael Johns opted to use Choate at the back end of the bullpen.
“Honestly, I just love pitching,” Choate said of his role. “It’s a mindset. Starting or closing, I like being out there with the ball in my hand and the game on the line.”
- Phil Nevin, the 1992 Golden Spikes winner and first player taken in the draft that summer, brings four years of minor league managerial experience in the Tigers system to his new job as manager at Triple-A Reno, where he will replace Brett Butler. Nevin guided Double-A Erie in 2010 before spending the last three seasons at Triple-A Toledo.
- Mark Grace was promoted to hitting coach at short-season Hillsboro after serving in the Arizona League last season, and Rob Ducey will be the hitting coach at Rookie-level Missoula.