The Oakland Athletics selected Daniel Schlereth in the eighth round of the 2007 draft. Schlereth instead elected to play out his senior year at Arizona, where he went 2-0 with a 1.81 ERA in 34 relief appearances. He also fanned 76 and walked 20 in 54.2 innings, putting to rest concerns about his command. His velocity improved from low-90s to mid-90s on his fastball, earning him the 26th overall selection in this year's draft.
Schlereth underwent Tommy John surgery his senior year in high school, and suffered broken ribs his junior season at Arizona. The southpaw's father, Mark, played on the offensive line for the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos, appearing in 15 playoff games and two Pro Bowls along the way. We caught up with an elated Daniel on draft day.
FutureBacks: Well, is it safe to say that you made the right decision in not signing with the A's last year?
Daniel Schlereth: Yeah, you can say that again!
FB: Did you know that the Arizona Diamondbacks were one of the teams that was most interested? Could you gauge that at all in the past couple of months?
DS: I had no idea, man. I thought I was going to go to the Mariners or the Padres, 20 or 23rd pick. After that, I talked to my advisor, and he said, "no one likes you as much as the Yankees," who picked 28th. I had no clue. I have a great relationship with the scout who drafted me, Rodney Davis. I talked to him earlier today, and he said [the Diamondbacks] were going to try to make a move. When my advisor said they picked me at number 26, I was ecstatic.
FB: How great is it to be drafted by a team that plays in an area that you're already familiar with, and in which you already have a lot of friends?
DS: It's great! I'm so excited. I couldn't ask for a better situation. I think spring training will be in Tucson, and I'm right at home with Tucson, obviously, and very familiar with Arizona. I don't really have any words to explain it. I'm just very, very excited and very thankful to be an Arizona Diamondback.
FB: Do you attribute your increase in velocity this year to being healthy?
DS: Yeah, absolutely. I've felt absolutely great this year, man. I would say injury-free. Just staying consistent with my arm and taking care of my body. I've went through a good jump in velocity, so that's helped me tremendously this year.
FB: A lot of pitchers say that in coming back from Tommy John surgery, their arm actually feels stronger afterwards. Did you find that to be the case?
DS: Sure. I think it's just the time you put into your arm, shoulder, and elbow. I don't know, but I guess it's all the time off from throwing and all the strengthening you're doing that actually helps it; I don't think it's the surgery that does it. Your elbow becomes stronger; it's three times stronger than what God gave you to begin with. So that's always refreshing to hear, but you've just got to put the work in to do it."
FB: Which do you throw more often, your curveball or your changeup?
DS: I would throw a curveball way more often.
FB: Is it because you're more comfortable with the curve or just the nature of the pitches?
DS: I think they're two pretty good pitches. I just feel a lot better throwing the curveball. I feel like I have a little more command of it right now at this point in my career. I like throwing both; it just depends on what type of hitter I'm facing in a given situation.
FB: So in a key situation, you are still willing to go to the changeup?
DS: Oh yeah, definitely. If a guy's just absolutely dead-red, cheating fastball, I'll throw a changeup to a right-handed hitter. I'll usually throw it to more right-handers than I do left-handers. But if a guy's dead-red as a left-hander, then I'll throw the changeup as well.
FB: What is the biggest thing you've learned in the past year?
DS: Probably throwing at the strike zone with every pitch. I'm not trying to strike everybody out. Obviously, strikeouts are exciting and fun, but I'm pitching to contact a little bit more. I hate to say that, but just filling up the strike zone with all of my pitches, locating, and obviously staying aggressive.
FB: Well you'll definitely get your ears full of that from the Diamondbacks' coaching staff. They love pitchers to be aggressive within the strike zone.
DS: Great, man!
FB: I wanted to ask you about your dad. He's obviously been in a lot of huge games in his NFL career. What has he told you about handling the pressure that comes with a closing role and stepping up in those big games?
DS: I think being around him has really helped me: seeing the games he went through like the Superbowls and all the playoff games that were down-to-the-wire nail-biters. So I feel like I'm very well-versed with what has to be done. If we need a big win for our team, I feel like I'm the right guy for that situation. I definitely love to have the ball in my hands the last few innings and I feel very comfortable with that.
FB: Does the fact that the Diamondbacks are light on left-handed pitching give you confidence that you can advance quickly to the major leagues?
DS: I don't really look at that kind of stuff. I stick to what I do best and I stick to my strengths. I've had a good amount of success with that. What guys are telling me is that I have a chance to move up through the system really fast. That's all I can ask for, is a chance to help this bullpen and help the Diamondbacks win. That's all I'm really looking for.
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