Shreve Gives Hitters Short Shrift

Southern Nevada righthander emerges as top JUCO prospect

College of Southern Nevada coach Tim Chambers isn't afraid to think outside the box, which explains how Colby Shreve ended up in "The Box."

Shreve, a sophomore righthander, has quickly emerged as the nation's top junior college prospect in the first month of the 2008 season, but he's had to work extremely hard to earn that mantle.

Shreve played mostly shortstop at Las Vegas' Bonanza High and didn't start pitching until his junior year. As a senior in 2006 he worked mostly in the 84-85 range—Chambers said he never saw Shreve above 87 in high school—and went undrafted that June.

Shreve said going undrafted motivated him to prove himself to major league scouts, and he decided to enroll at CCSN instead of Nevada-Las Vegas so he could have another shot at the draft a year later. Chambers convinced Shreve, an excellent student with a high school grade-point average above 4.0, that he could still be a very good student and satisfy his core academic requirements at Southern Nevada. Chambers was elated to land Shreve, and he knew there was plenty of untapped potential in his lanky 6-foot-4 frame.

"You shake his hand and they're humongous hands, some of the biggest hands I've ever seen on a kid," Chambers said. "We felt like that guy's going to be special."

The summer before his freshman year, Shreve dedicated himself to adding strength. He embraced "The Box," a wood-contained resistance training machine developed by a Las Vegas chiropractor. Chambers decided to get one for his program, and the Coyotes now have three after Shreve's success with the contraption.

"It's pretty much a box that you stand on and it's got bands on either side," Shreve said. "It's got constant resistance, so it's really good for the rotator and all the muscles. I came out and worked my butt off in the summer, and in the fall I felt really good. The velocity just started to climb at a good rate. I just thought I could be really good."

Shreve went from 185 pounds as a high school senior to his current 220, and he said "The Box" was a huge part of it. Then, during his first scrimmage at Southern Nevada, Shreve touched 94 mph.

"I said, 'Holy cow, where'd that come from?'" Chambers said. "The command and feel wasn't there, that's why he didn't have as much success as a freshman. The best thing he ever did for his future was come back (for his sophomore year)."

Shreve went 5-2, 2.78 as a freshman with 59 strikeouts and 29 walks in 58 innings. But down the stretch fatigue began to set in from his first year shouldering a significant pitching workload, and he fell to the Braves in the eighth round of the draft.

Shreve decided to return for his sophomore season, and Chambers and pitching coach Richard Ebarb worked on refining his delivery in the fall.

"I felt he had become a bit mechanical with his delivery, so we sped him up a lot, and it's helped him tremendously," Chambers said. "Last year, he just had a real slow delivery: take away, stop, leg lift, stop, then to the plate. Just real mechanical. I said, 'You're 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. When you start to go, whether you're in the windup or the stretch, you need to get that big body going and go after guys.' I think it helped get him closer to home plate with his release and got him going much quicker than in the past. Guys haven't gotten as much good contact off him this year."

Shreve also developed his changeup to the point it has become a second plus pitch along with his fastball, and his 1-to-7 curveball isn't far behind. Hordes of scouts were on hand to see him face Chipola (Fla.) JC on Feb. 1, and he rewarded them by allowing just one run on three hits over six strong innings.

"He was 94-96, he had three pitches, he was downhill," said an American League area scout who was in attendance. "He was hitting his spots. His stuff was firm, he was confident, and he had a '(expletive deleted) you' attitude."

The scary thing is, Chambers says that was Shreve's worst outing of the year. The next week against Walters (Tenn.) State CC, Shreve allowed just one run on three hits while striking out eight in a complete-game win. On the season, he was 3-0, 1.42 with 22 strikeouts and nine walks in 25 innings.

"As a pitcher, I've matured, grown up a lot," Shreve said. "I'm starting to learn what pitch to throw in certain situations, how to keep runners close. You can be a great guy off the field, but when you're on that mound, it's you against the hitter, and I want to win that battle."