Righthander Heath Fillmyer transitioned from shortstop to the mound in junior college and then from the Athletics to the Royals in spring training.
The 23-year-old had just finished a January workout in New Jersey when the phone rang. A member of the Oakland front office informed Fillmyer had been dealt to Kansas City, along with righty Jesse Hahn, for first baseman Brandon Moss and reliever Ryan Buchter.
“It was a complete shock,” Fillmyer said. “It can be a good thing. When people trade for you, they usually want you. It was a little hard for me at first, (but) now I have a new opportunity and I’m just trying to make the best of it.”
It was a shock, too, when the Rockies drafted Fillmyer in the 28th round in 2013 as a pitcher. He had made just seven relief appearances as a Mercer County (N.J.) JC freshman.
“I guess they liked what they saw,” Fillmyer said. “I decided to go back to (junior) college, and I became a starting pitcher my sophomore year. I (had) played shortstop my whole life . . .”
“The transition from shortstop to pitcher has been a long road. It’s been fun. It’s been exciting.”
Fillmyer went 9-0, 0.68 as a sophomore and signed with the A’s, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2014.
He has adapted to becoming a pitcher by developing a full repertoire. Fillmyer throws four-seam and two-seam fastballs—ranging from 91-95 mph—a hard changeup, a slider and a curveball
“I think there is always a right pitch for the situation,” Fillmyer said. “It’s a cat-and-mouse game (with the batter). I just try to ruin their timing and give them a pitch they can’t handle.
“I’ve got a good mix. I like to think I’m an aggressive pitcher. I like to be in the zone. I don’t like to walk guys.”
Fillmyer went 11-5, 3.49 last season in 29 starts at Double-A Midland. He threw a career-high 150 innings in the regular season, plus 11.2 more in the Texas League playoffs.
“My whole life I wanted to be a position player,” Fillmyer said.
Now he desires to be a member of the Royals’ rotation.