CEDAR RAPIDS — Some professional athletes have personal chefs. Scott Schebler has a personal physical therapist.
A live-in personal physical therapist, as a matter of fact, who he says has him feeling better than he ever has in his professional baseball career. At least his major league career.
Schebler, the Cedar Rapids Prairie graduate and Cincinnati Reds outfielder, suffered shoulder injuries that placed him on the disabled list both last season and in 2017. He hurt his left shoulder in ‘17 diving for a flyball and his right one last season crashing into the wall chasing a fly.
The 28-year-old decided to leave Iowa permanently this past offseason, purchasing a home in Buckeye, Ariz., about 20 miles from the Reds spring training complex in Goodyear. Best friend Jordan McSweeney and his wife moved in with him.
McSweeney is a Cedar Rapids Jefferson grad and a PT. He and Schebler worked arduously together in the winter months.
“He is amazing at his job,” Schebler said earlier this week in a phone interview from Cincinnati. “He has basically gotten me back to full health. I had the full offseason, and we basically did PT every day, to make sure I was good to go. I’m ready to rock because of him.
“It worked out great. I knew I needed to get healthy, and it just worked out perfectly to have him at the house to work out with every day. He’s a genius at what he does. I feel really, really strong right now, and that’s all you can ask for.”
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When Schebler has been healthy, he has proven he can play every day in the big leagues. He hit 30 home runs in 2017, though he tailed off considerably in the second half of the season as he tried to play through his shoulder injury.
He hit .255 with 17 homers in 107 games last season and got the opening-day start in center field Thursday for the Reds, going 0-for-4 in a 5-4 win over Pittsburgh. He was slated to hit leadoff Saturday afternoon for Cincinnati, but the game was rained out.
“Overall, I don’t think my career statistics are where I want them to be,” he said with candor. “That’s just based off the player I know I am. Obviously, injuries hamper that a little bit. I try to look on the bright side. Playing hurt these last couple years and still being able to be a productive big league outfielder, I truly believe that when I am 100 percent, like I am right now, I have something to prove.”
Schebler has been the underdog type his entire career. He played five sports at Prairie, concentrating on baseball only as he got to college.
The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him in the 26th round in 2010 out of Des Moines Area Community College and signed him late that summer after Schebler excelled playing in the college wood bat Northwoods League. He had a monster 2013 at high-A Rancho Cucamonga that put him on the prospect radar, and he made his MLB debut in 2015 for L.A.
The Reds acquired him in a trade that offseason. Schebler has a .247 career major league batting average in 350 games, with 59 home runs.
“I definitely have a little chip on my shoulder this year to prove myself,” he said. “I just want to make the Reds know that they made a good investment by trading for me. I feel like, so far, it’s been a pretty OK relationship, but I feel like I need to pay them back for all of the opportunities they’ve given me. That’s kind of where I’m at. They have given me so many opportunities, I just want to make them happy and make myself happy.”
He had a real good spring training, hitting .342 in 17 games. Schebler said he worked on getting deeper into counts, with the goal getting to 3-2 as much as he could and then doing damage.
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The Reds acquired outfielder Yasiel Puig in the offseason and have one of the top prospects in baseball in Nick Senzel, who can play outfield and second base. Senzel was injured at the end of spring training and will miss considerable time.
Schebler has an open window to playing time right now, and he aims to make the most of it. He knows he has to.
“Unless the ballclub tells you ‘We’re going to give you 600 plate appearances, so we don’t care what happens,’ really no one has anything cemented,” he said. “That’s part of the game. That’s the way it always has been. A lot of people try and put pressure on it, but, no, it’s just one of those things where everybody is after your job. That’s whether you’re a prospect or not a prospect. It’s a competitive world, and the people that compete at the highest level get to stay at the highest level. It’s just being that guy year in and year out.
“What I took out of spring training is I have an opportunity right now to play every day. And I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt. That is really all you can ask for in this kind of industry.”
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