Shepaug grad fights for pitching spot on Athletics
One by one, all-star by all-star, Oakland Athletics reliever and former Shepaug Valley High baseball standout Evan Scribner shut down the Texas Rangers in a winner-take-all Game 162 for the American League West Division title.
And uncle by uncle, grandparent by grandparent, Scribner's father, Dave, shooed away callers as he watched from the family's Washington Depot home.
"The phone was ringing off the hook and I was like, `Leave me alone, I want to watch this,' " Dave said by phone under far calmer circumstances recently, fresh from visiting Evan at the Athletics' spring training home in Phoenix. "I think they all just thought, `Evan's on TV... we better call.'"
It was Oct. 3, and the A's -- baseball's frugal darlings once again, their postseason ticket already punched on the strength of eight wins over the previous nine days --were trailing the reigning, two-time American League champs, 5-1, with two outs in the third inning.
In came Evan Scribner, a rookie right-hander who had earned his keep as perhaps the most versatile member of the Oakland bullpen. Asked to stop the bleeding for starter A.J. Griffin, Scribner's pitching gave the plucky A's a pulse.
"I was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead and hopefully I'd get quick outs and work fast so the guys could stay focused and stay on their toes," the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Scribner said of his three scoreless innings in an eventual 12-5 victory.
In all, Scribner faced 11 batters, pitching around two hits, striking out two -- including Texas slugger Josh Hamilton -- and walking none.
The win was microcosmic for Oakland, an unforeseen contender with a season-long habit of closing deficits, in games and in the standings. And for Scribner, whose personal odyssey included a cup of coffee with the San Diego Padres in 2011, an injury and a subsequent release, and a new beginning with Oakland in 2012 at Triple-A Sacramento, one locker over from embattled slugger Manny Ramirez.
This was an arrival.
Including the postseason with Oakland, Scribner yielded a mere three runs in 14 innings over his final 12 appearances. He finished with a regular-season ERA of 2.55, and right-handed batters hit just .183 against him.
Yet, in a plot twist typical in the life of a young reliever, Scribner, 27, is once again fighting for his big-league life this spring.
Through two weeks of the 2013 campaign, Evan certainly has merited a spot on the A's roster.
In 9.2 innings over seven games, the former Shepaug mound ace had surrendered seven hits and two walks, resulting in just two earned runs, and boasted a 1.86 ERA.
His two outings last weekend were excellent performances vs. the powerful lineup of the Detroit Tigers.
Yet his contract includes a third and final minor-league option, which means the team can demote him without losing him, as they would other, more experienced arms vying for a spot in the bullpen.
Scribner understands the contract business. He's resigned to it. That doesn't mean he has to like it.
"No, I'm not okay with it at all," said Scribner, who pitched at Central Connecticut State University. "It's how it is. It's a bit frustrating, because no matter how you do, you can work as hard as you possibly can, you can do well, and it might not matter.
"As a reliever, you have to prove yourself every year, all over again -- that's just how it is," the ex-Spartan remarked. "The important thing for me is to try not to press too hard, to try to make them think that they have to keep me up here."
"It really just comes down to confidence," Scribner said. "The confidence just comes with more experience. The more you face the guys, the more you realize that you can get them out. You're in the same league as them and you're there for a reason."