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Connor Van Scoyoc keeps plugging along in 5th professional baseball season
Cedar Rapids Jefferson grad had breakout season in Angels organization in 2022, with hopes that a great start Thursday is beginning of fine 2023 campaign
CEDAR RAPIDS — He has been a professional baseball player for five years, which really doesn’t seem possible.
It feels like yesterday, or perhaps the day before, when Connor Van Scoyoc was playing for Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School.
But he’s 23 now, no longer kiddingly and affectionately known by the nickname “Chubs,” because he was a bit chubby growing up. He’s pitching for Tri-City in the high-Class A Northwest League and possibly making a name for himself in the Los Angeles Angels organization.
“It’s been awesome,” Van Scoyoc said Friday from Everett, Wash., where his team’s game had just been rained out. “I can’t even tell you the number of good people I have met, the experiences I’ve had. The other day we went to Seattle on an off day. I’ve never been to Seattle before. It was pretty cool to check that out. But the best part about it has been the people around you.”
The thing about Van Scoyoc — whose dad, Aaron, played pro ball, whose brother, Spencer, was released in spring training by the Philadelphia Phillies, and whose grandfather, Jim, is one of the legendary coaches in Iowa high school history at Norway — is that there aren’t a whole lot of pro miles on his right arm.
He signed with the Angels after they drafted him in the 11th round in 2018 but didn’t officially throw in any games that summer. Los Angeles decided its high school pitching draftees would work out at the team’s minor-league complex in Arizona but would not participate in games.
He had Tommy John elbow surgery late in 2019 and wasn’t going to pitch in the 2020 season, which ended up being canceled anyway by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was good timing for my surgery, I will say it like that,” Van Scoyoc said. “I wasn’t going to pitch at all, so I ended up not missing a single game.”
The 2021 season saw him pitch in Rookie ball and low-Class A with mediocre results. But after a slow start to the 2022 season for low-A Inland Empire, Van Scoyoc got into a groove.
He went 11-5 with a 4.28 earned run average in 23 games, including 22 starts. Take the ERA with a grain of salt because the California League is a big-time hitter’s league.
Pay more attention to a .226 opponent batting average and the 140 strikeouts in 120 innings.
“Last year was my first true year of staying healthy,” Van Scoyoc said. “I got into a rhythm and made adjustments from start to start. For me, it was just critiquing the minor details each start.”
This season, he’s 1-2 with a 2.61 ERA the first month and coming off a great start Thursday night against Everett. He went six innings, gave up six hits and a run, striking out nine.
“It was exciting to get back on track,” Van Scoyoc said. “After having a pretty good last year ... I started off slow last year, and this year I’m kind of starting off slow again. I’m not pitching bad, but I’m just not happy with the way I’m pitching at this point.
“(Thursday) night, the game plan was just be heavy with the breaking-ball usage and use that sinker down. Honestly, those were the two pitches I stuck to. I sprinkled in a couple of other pitches here and there, but just executing those (two) pitches was the key.”
Van Scoyoc said he hadn’t been especially pleased with his breaking ball outside of Thursday’s start. He also said his fastball velocity has been down, as he generally pitches between 91 and 93 miles per hour.
He throws both a sinker and cutter.
“It’ll come as the season goes on and I get more comfortable,” he said. “Getting stronger, I put in a lot of work this offseason, put some good weight on. I had high expectations that way. I was throwing harder in spring training than I am right now ... I think the biggest thing has been 50 degrees and rain all the time up here in Washington. I’m just waiting for some warm weather.”
Tri-City is located in Pasco, Wash., in the eastern part of the state. The other cities in Tri-City are Kennewick and Richland.
Van Scoyoc hopes Thursday night is the beginning of another good season.
“Obviously you have expectations. You learn a lot along the way. I keep my expectations fairly low, just so I can enjoy the experiences that come with it,” he said. “It’s just getting better each start ... Just making sure I am executing pitches. The higher you go up, the better the hitters, so it’s making sure I plan for each hitter, and not just worrying about dominating the strike zone. That’s one of the biggest parts of pitching.”
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