Shipman on 2005, Off-season Plans

Entering the 2005 season, Andrew Shipman had only a small number of goals. The biggest, he says, was just getting to Double-A.

Not only did he get there, Shipman made the Southern League All-Star team as one of the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx top relievers in '05. He finished the regular season 3-6 with a 3.17 ERA in 59 appearances, striking out 68 and walking 27. As the team's closer in the second half, he saved 15 games (fifth most in the league), including two more in the post-season.

Not bad for someone who can only see out of one eye.

"I just wanted to make the Double-A team," said Shipman, who has pitched with a glass (left) eye all throughout his life after sustaining serious injury when a family fish tank toppled him when he was 18 months old. "In the beginning, I was trying to adjust to that level being that it was my first year there. At the All-Star break, I was starting to get more comfortable with my coaching staff and the players on my team."

As Shipman noted, getting comfortable at Double-A wasn't always simple for the 23-year-old and Red Sox farm system import. Shipman -- stolen from the Sox for LHP Jimmy Anderson, who was eventually traded back to the Cubs -- admits nervousness settled in at the start of his first year above A-ball this past spring.

The first goal may have been simply getting to Double-A when spring camp ended, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. There was also the small matter of staying there.

"Once I got there, it was like I was afraid because I had moved around so much in my first year (2003)," said Shipman, a non-drafted free agent who pitched in the Alaskan League before being tendered a contract by the Red Sox. "I wanted to stay at West Tenn and I was afraid that something was going to happen and that I'd have to go somewhere else."

Apparently, the initial fear didn't take too long to subside, as Shipman allowed only five earned runs in his first 26 2/3 innings for a 1.72 ERA in his first 22 appearances. He was named to the All-Star team in late June after sporting a 3.03 ERA in his first 31 games.

The role of closer was not unfamiliar territory for the right-hander and University of Missouri alumnus. Shipman, un-drafted because of undisclosed medical concerns, notched 17 saves last season on the Class-A Florida State League forum between the Daytona Cubs and Sarasota Red Sox.

He isn't one to label himself a closer by nature.

"You have to pitch your way into this role. Your manager and pitching coach has to want you in this role," Shipman said. "In the beginning of the year, the coaches told us there wasn't really a set role for anyone. You kind of pitched your way into roles, but they really didn't say anything about them. I was lucky enough to have a coach that thought I could get the job done, but I'm a reliever first."

Shipman added, "There's so much pressure and adrenaline that comes with being a closer. Everything is focused on this one inning. Three outs and the game is over."

Unfortunately for Shipman and his teammates at Double-A this past season, West Tenn fell short of a Southern League championship, falling three games to one to the Jacksonville Suns in the league championship series.

West Tenn won both the first and second half of the Northern Division title and quickly swept away Carolina in the opening round of the playoffs before running into a scorching hot (pardon the pun) Suns pitching staff that finished the post-season with a combined 1.57 ERA. Shipman's club had the second best mark at 2.76.

Now with the season over, Shipman can put all of the aforementioned pressure and adrenaline associated with being a closer to rest--at least temporarily. He has no plans for winter ball and will instead put more emphasis on weight-lifting and body building.

"Once I get home, I'm going to start conditioning and lifting, start putting some meat on my skinny [butt]," Shipman said. "No, I've got nothing planned besides lifting, staying in shape, getting stronger and trying to get bigger."

"I wish we could have finished it off at West Tenn this year," Shipman continued. "We gave it a good run and I can't wait to come back and pitch again next year."

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