Shipman Finding his Groove

It took Triple-A Iowa right-hander Andy Shipman a very short time to re-discover his groove after being sent down to Double-A in late June.

The reason for Shipman's demotion at the time was simple: walks.

He had allowed 19 in 37 1/3 innings with Iowa before being sent back to West Tenn, where he earned all-star honors a year ago. Never mind that Shipman had also allowed 45 hits in those same 37-plus innings. That wasn't what caught Iowa pitching coach Alan Dunn's eye.

"I wasn't too concerned about his hits allowed, per se," Dunn said. "Obviously, you want to stay away from them, but I was more concerned with whether he was giving up a walk, and then giving up a hit. If you give up a hit but stay away from a walk, you still need to give up three more hits to score a run. But if you give up that hit, and then a walk, you're in trouble."

Since returning from West Tenn in late July, Shipman has walked four batters in 13 1/3 innings. Over his last six outings from the Iowa bullpen, he has allowed two runs and seven hits for a 1.93 ERA.

The demotion to Double-A served as a wake-up call.

"I knew what I needed to do when I got sent down," admitted Shipman. "When I went down there, I felt like I got ahead of everybody and got back into the groove of how I usually pitch. I feel like I've been throwing the same since I got back up here."

The demotion was the first of Shipman's career. Signed as a non-drafted free agent by Boston in 2003, scouts claimed they weren't allowed to select him in that year's draft as the result of health issues.

At only 18 months old, tragedy struck that would affect Shipman for the rest of his life. Living at home with his mother while his father, Jeffrey, was away on a job assignment at the time, a family fish tank tipped and landed on young Andrew Shipman, who would lose his left eye permanently as a result.

Pitching with a glass eye throughout his entire career, Shipman would overcome the odds and record 32 saves in his first three professional seasons with the Cubs and Red Sox farm systems.

After spending roughly a month back in Double-A earlier this year, Shipman began to put it all back together following an otherwise up-and-down 2006 season. He allowed four runs and 11 hits in 15 1/3 innings with the Diamond Jaxx, and most importantly, only two walks.

"I was in a familiar place where I had done well before," Shipman said of returning to West Tenn. "I knew I could be doing as well [with Iowa] as I was doing there. Since coming back here, I've been attacking guys. I was never really afraid of facing guys here."

Shipman features a four- and two-seam fastball (88-92 mph), slider, changeup and curveball in his repertoire of pitches. After being sent down, he says he never had to re-focus on any one specific pitch.

"It was all about confidence," he said.

Now that Shipman is back with the Triple-A team, Dunn will continue to monitor the walk totals as he does everyone else on his staff.

"When we talk about pitching, we make sure we're not pitching away from contact," Dunn said. "Obviously there are times in situations where you want to pitch around a guy, but for the most part, we're going to attack the zone."

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