Prospect Files: George Sherrill

When the Mariners signed LHP George Sherrill out of the Independent Leagues last summer, the transaction hardly made a blip on the radar screen. All Sherrill did was go out and dominate at Double-A, and heading into 2004 there's a chance he could leave Spring Training with the big league club. To read more about Sherrill's storied minor league career and his bright future, offers you a free look at Jason A. Churchill's report on the southpaw.

Position: LHR
Born: April 19, 1977
Place: Memphis, Tennessee
Ht: 6-0
Wt: 215
Bats: L
Throws: L
How Acquired: Signed by the Mariners as a Free Agent from the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern Independent League in July 2003.

George Sherrill's route to the Seattle Mariner's organization is one of the more interesting paths of any Mariner prospect. Unsigned out of Austin Peay State University in 1999, Sherrill signed on with the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League, one of a small number of Independent Leagues. The southpaw's career in pro ball began as a starter in 1999 with Evansville and after one season as a starter in 2000 has switched back to being a late innings relief ace and has pitched well ever since. Sherrill's move toward the big leagues is picking up pace, and his 2003 showing at Double-A San Antonio was nothing short of a perfect audition.

Evansville flirted with using Sherrill as a starting pitcher a few times in 1999 after 18 relief appearances. Forty innings later that season, mostly out of the bullpen, Sherrill had a solid season under his belt after posting a 2-4 record, a 3.15 ERA and 33 strikeouts.

Sherrill's 2000 campaign was spent entirely as a starter and his numbers reflected that the move wasn't the wisest of decisions. The 23-year-old finished with a 3-5 record and a 4.66 ERA in 13 starts. The secondary numbers were solid, however, as he posted 61 strikeouts in 75.1 innings pitched.

Sherrill moved onto the Northern League in 2001 with the Sioux Falls Canaries and went back to relieving with the exception of two starts. He finished the season with a 4-4 record and a 2.45 ERA in 48 games. The former Austin Peay State Governor posted 45 strikeouts in 58.2 innings and cut his walk total to a meager 14.

Following the 2001 season, Sioux Falls traded Sherrill to the Winnipeg Goldeyes. Sherrill didn't let the change ruin a roll he had started the previous season. The 25-year-old pitched in 38 games in 2002, totaling 41 innings, and posted a 3-5 record and a 3.07 ERA with 61 strikeouts while yielding just 13 walks. Sherrill pitched in more games in 2001-2002 than any other pitcher in the Northern League.

Returning to Winnipeg in 2003, Sherrill picked up right where he left off in 2002. His season with the Goldeyes was cut short in July after putting up big numbers including a miniscule 1.13 ERA in 16 innings pitched with 30 strikeouts and just four walks. The M's had seen enough at that point and signed the left-hander to a minor league contract. His first assignment was to join the defending Texas League Champion San Antonio Missions and somehow help the most dominating two-year team in the minors in 20 years.

The 26-year-old took the Texas League by storm and ended the 2003 season with a ridiculous 0.33 ERA in 27.1 innings. Sherrill struck out 31 and walked just 12 in his 16 appearances. Finishing off his 2003 campaign with San Antonio, the 6-foot, 215-pound hurler pitched 1.2 innings allowing one earned run with three strikeouts and two walks in the Texas League Championship Series versus Frisco.

Sherrill reported to the Arizona Fall League to continue working on his arsenal and went 0-0 in 13.1 innings, sporting a 2.70 ERA with 10 strikeouts and just four walks. His stints with Lara in the Venezuelan and Puerto Rican Winter League produced 12 innings pitched while allowing just four hits and two earned runs while striking out 18 and walking only five.

Expect George Sherrill to get every last chance to break Spring Training with the big club as one of the left-handers in the Safeco Field bullpen. If he doesn't make the club – the M's recent signing of LHP Ron Villone doesn't help his cause – then Sherrill will likely report to Triple-A Tacoma.

TOOLS: Grading Scale

Fastball: 60
Armed with a fastball in the high 80s to low 90s, Sherrill uses it to set up his secondary pitches. His command has improved vastly and he's been able to pinpoint the heater much better the past two seasons.

Slider: 60+
Sherrill uses the slider as his out-pitch when ahead in the count, especially against left-handed hitters. The biting action has proven to be very tough for hitters to pick up in time to make the proper adjustments during an at-bat. This pitch could reach a 70 if he continues to improve his control and pitch selection.

Change-Up: 40+
Relievers don't usually throw a third pitch too much and Sherrill has other pitches to choose from but the change-up is the best pitch a reliever can add to a fastball-slider combo. Sherrill could add a cut fastball and a split-finger to his regular arsenal, but until he does so the change-up is the best choice. All of aforementioned will need work.

Mound Presence: 60+
Sherrill always seems to have the right idea on how to come after hitters when he is brought into a ballgame. The means it took Sherrill to get to where he is has taught him a lot about a lot of hitters in a lot of different leagues. If given the chance, Sherrill should prove a smart pitcher with more ability than just the arm attached to his left side.

Intangibles: 70
Sherrill has pitched for more than 10 pitching coaches and managers in his pro career and turned a faint chance at the majors into a potentially promising big league career since his final year of college. Sherrill reminds some of former Mariner southpaw Norm Charlton in the areas of coachability and attitude.

MLB ETA: 2004

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