CEDAR RAPIDS — Scott Schebler is good to go.
The Cincinnati Reds outfielder and Cedar Rapids Prairie grad had a breakout 2017 season sabotaged in early June by a left shoulder injury incurred while diving to make a catch. He still managed to hit 30 home runs, though 22 of those came before the all-star break.
Schebler tried to power through his injury, which turned out to be a bruised rotator cuff, and his play suffered. Finally forced to the disabled list, he was better upon his return.
“I was more frustrated with how I personally handled it,” Schebler said Wednesday by phone from Cincinnati, where he was leaving Great American Ball Park after an afternoon workout. “I didn’t speak up, tried to battle through it. There are things you can battle through, but that was definitely not one of them. That’s one of those injuries where you have to take time. That’s how that body part works.”
Schebler did a full two months of work in the offseason with local physical therapist Blake Tiedtke (the former Cedar Rapids Jefferson and University of Nebraska football player) to strengthen his shoulder and re-learn muscle patterns he had pre-injury. The 27-year-old came into this spring training out to prove to everyone he’s healthy.
His stats showed he is: a .413 batting average with three home runs in 46 at-bats. The Reds’ season opener Thursday afternoon against Washington was postponed by rain and rescheduled for Friday afternoon.
“I went into spring training with stuff I wanted to work on,” Schebler said. “The biggest thing for me was just showing the team that I was healthy and fully ready to go after getting hurt last year. I’m sure they were having some doubts about me coming into spring training, wondering if I was fully healed. I think I showed I was healthy. That was the biggest thing. Just making sure they knew that.”
Cincinnati Manager Bryan Price has said he will go with a four-outfielder rotation this season that includes Schebler. Primarily a right fielder in his professional career, he’ll slide over to center when Billy Hamilton doesn’t play.
Although wary about how a four-man rotation is going to work, Schebler is determined to earn his playing time. He’s always done that, an underdog 26th-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010 out of Des Moines Area Community College.
He made his big-league debut with the Dodgers in 2015, was traded that offseason to Cincinnati, played 82 games with the Reds in 2016 and 141 last season.
“You hit it right on the head. It’s nothing new, I’ve done this my whole career,” Schebler said. “Being a low draft pick, that’s the way I’ve always had to do it. That’s the one thing I think has always separated me, I’ve always produced. So it’s no different going in this year than any other year. Even if you are an everyday starter, you’ve got to produce. I have that mindset to just kind of prove myself again. I felt like I had a good year last year up until I got hurt. That wasn’t enough to get me an everyday spot, so I’ve just got to back out and prove it.”
Schebler concentrated, too, this spring on selectivity at the plate. Make that controlled, though aggressive selectivity, if that makes sense.
That means looking for a pitch in a certain spot. If it’s not there, take it.
If it is, let it fly. He drew just 39 walks last season and struck out in about a quarter of his at-bats, and he’d like that ratio to improve.
Anything to get regular playing time for a young, rebuilding Reds club.
“I can only control what I can do,” Schebler said. “I know that if I’d been healthy, I wouldn’t have had that downfall last year. So I just need to stick to what I can do.
“I’m definitely ready to get going.”
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