Schroder A Consistent Contributor

COLUMBUS, OH - Although the Clippers are still working out the kinks in several areas, they have had the luxury of being able to rely on consistent production from one part of the team. The Clippers' bullpen has been extraordinary in this young season, and right-hander Chris Schroder has been a key contributor to their success.

Montreal picked up Schroder in the 19th round of the 2001 MLB draft, and the organization has seen him confidently work his way up the minor-league ladder.  Getting off to a fast start has been a familiar occurrence with Schroder, and thus far, this year has been no different.

"It always feels good to get off to a good start," Schroder told CapitolDugout.com Friday.  "I had a few shaky outings early, but lately I feel like I've controlled the ball a lot better.  I've thrown my slider and changeup more often for strikes.  It's been a little easier because it's gotten a little warmer.  It's little easier to throw your off-speed when it's warmer.  I've been hitting my spots, things have been going well, and balls have been hit at people.  So, it's a combination of pitching good and getting lucky sometimes."

That's quite a modest answer for someone who has been pitching as well as Schroder has.  The reliever has yet to allow an earned run in 10 appearances.  In 14 innings on the mound, Schroder has struck out 18 batters and has held his opponents to a measly .191 batting average.  If that's his idea of shaky outings and luck, then the Clippers and Nationals can probably expect 2007 to be his best season to date.

Schroder showcases three pitches in his repertoire: a changeup, a reliable fastball that he easily hits his spots with, and an ever-improving slider.  Although he likes to use his fastball when he is ahead in the count, he maintains a great deal of versatility in his strategy against hitters.

"For my out-pitch, I like to throw my fastball elevated, you know, throw it up there. For the most part, that's been my pitch that hitters will chase," Schroder said.  "And you know, depending on the hitter, sometimes you try to throw a slider in the dirt."

This season, the Clippers' bullpen and Schroder have had no difficulty in finding the pitch that hitters will chase.  In addition to Schroder's success, Chris Booker has climbed to the top of the International League's standings in saves, and Winston Abreu leads the team in strikeouts despite being seventh on the team in innings pitched.  Schroder said that it is no secret that the bullpen is feeding off each others' success right now.

"It's a good feeling knowing that you can put anybody out there. And for the most part, we've been getting the job done," Schroder said.  "So, when the rest of the bullpen is throwing well, I think everybody just tries to step up their game.  And also, it's fun for everybody."

Similar to many other ball clubs, the Clippers' pen normally has no shortage of teasing and practical jokes.  Although too much of this can be detrimental to a pitcher's focus, Schroder said that the relaxed atmosphere has helped loosen guys up a bit.

"We have a good time down there. I think that's good for all bullpens. Sometimes you're sitting down there for six or seven innings, so anything can happen. It's good to stay loose," Schroder said.  "At the same time you have to draw a line and know when you need to get in the game."

Without question, Schroder has brought the appropriate mental approach to the mound in his appearances this season.  As a reliever, he always faces uncertainty about whether he will be handed the ball on a given night.  However, Schroder has found that bringing a consistent mindset to the ballpark everyday is the key.

"You can pitch any night, you can pitch back-to-back nights, you never know.  You have the mind frame that you're going to pitch every night; at least I do.  For the most part, you have to approach every game like you're going to pitch, then that way there's no surprises when you get in there."

Last year, the Oklahoma native started the season in Harrisburg and was quickly promoted to Triple-A New Orleans.  While in New Orleans, Schroder showed no signs of stopping his ride to the majors.  He held a 2-1 record and a 1.52 ERA in 47 1/3 innings of work.

Those numbers prompted Washington to call up the 6-foot-3 reliever.  He made his major league debut on August 8 and stayed on the Nationals roster for the remainder of the season.  Schroder admitted that the heightened quality of play in the big leagues is hard to ignore.

"The players are better, the pitchers are better, everything's a little better as you go up, just as it is with every level coming up. They've got more discipline," Schroder said.  "At the same time, if you make your pitches in good spots, you're going to get them out. You can't be afraid of anybody, you've got to throw your game and do what you do and you'll be successful."

As the season winded down, the improvements in his mental approach and confidence level were evident.  Near the end of September, Schroder had a stretch of four straight appearances without allowing a hit or a run.

"I think it got a little better as it went on.  You know in the minor leagues, if you throw two nights in a row, you're probably going to get the night off.  But up there, you can throw three or four nights in a row. There's never a night off. I think it's more of a confidence thing.  The more you pitch there and the more you're successful, mentally you know you can do it and it's just a matter of trying to be consistent at it."

Schroder has pitched admirably for the Clippers, yet there are still areas in which he wishes to improve in while on the mound for Columbus.

"I'm trying to cut down my walks a little bit.  The main thing, I think, is my slider.  I've been working on it to change it a little bit over the off-season and it's working better for me this year.  If I can throw that slider consistently and keep it down, it'll be a big plus for me," Schroder said.

Considering that he has continued to show improvement, he could easily be one of several Clippers' relievers to see time with the Nationals this summer.  As a reliever, Schroder's appearances in games are typically productive, but fairly short-lived.  However, if Schroder keeps consistently playing well, his next stop at the majors will certainly be anything but short-lived.

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