Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The Other Rule V Draftee
Few know his name, less have seem him pitch, but Our Washington Nationals knew all about him. And now, he is on the verge of being one of the BIGGEST SURPRISES of 2007 Spring Training. Levale Speigner may well be introduced come Opening Day at RFK Stadium, in Washington, DC, as a National.
The 26 year old Auburn University product is the direct beneficiary of the teams announcement that Luis Ayala will most likely start the 2007 Season on The Disabled List. Drafted in the second round of this past Winter's Rule V Major League Draft, Speigner must stay on the 25 Man Active Roster, barring injury, or be offered back to The Minnesota Twins, his original professional team, for $25,000. Known as a reliever, Washington has stretched him out in Viera, Florida, giving him work at Accelerated Camp as a starter. And, he's been effective. Now, in three appearances for The Big Club in exhibition games, Levale has been lights out. The Organization has raved about him, and so has some of the press.
Ironically, if Levale makes the cut, along with fellow Rule V Draftee, Catcher Jesus Flores, Our Nationals would be carrying two Rule V guys on the roster at the same time. I am not an expert on this subject, but I doubt if many Major League Teams have done the same in the past. In fact, Jim Bowden told Speigner, face to face, in February that he has never had ANY SUCCESS in this draft of minor league free agents. How do you feel about that draft now, Jimbo?
Number 68 in your scorecard has stood out from the start. Ayala (a Rule V Draftee himself for Montreal) would have been one of seven relief pitchers to head north come April, if he was healthy. Now, Our Nationals need to make a fresh choice. Their preference is to add a thrower that can go both ways-spot start and relief. Of the non-roster invitees to camp, only Jason Simontacchi (who has pitched well enough to land one of the five starter spots) and Left Handed Reliever, Ray King have a legitimate shot at making The Big Club in April. None of whom are expected to go both ways.
When I spoke to Speigner at Nats Spring Training, HE WAS ALL BUSINESS and did not look at his time in Minnesota as a failure.
"I don’t look on it (The Rule V Draft) as The Twins giving up on me. I look on it as an opportunity to get my name out, elsewhere in Professional Ball. Although, I was surprised when I got the call (From Washington) that I had been selected in the Rule V Draft. Quite frankly, as a player, you just hope for an opportunity like this. When you are put in an Organization that gives you a chance to make the Majors, you have to be happy for it."
Yet, you have a huge uphill climb to make. How do you overcome that?
“True, there is a lot of fighting going on here. But, I need to go out there and get hitters out just like everybody else does. If I can consistently take out the batters, I can leave an impression."
Do you think you have a decent chance?
“I have no clue. But, I have to take advantage of each and every time The Nationals put me out there on the mound. Whether I am pitching in Major League Camp or in The Accelerated Camp, I need to throw against the hitters and be successful. If I am not successful, no one will pay any attention to me."
But, you don't feel you are at a disadvantage, playing in an Organization where no one really knows who you are?
"I find that Randy StClaire (Pitching Coach) and Manny Acta (Manager) treat everyone just about the same. There does not seem to be any favorites. That’s a good sign. They don’t make a big deal over anyone, as far as I can see. That being said, I need to leave everything out on the field each and everyday. I need to work on my command, my location of pitches. That's my most important goal, if I am to make the BIG STEP, up to The Major Leagues. Command separates the good pitchers from the average, or less. That's my goal."
"But, I can tell you, I only worry about what I can do to affect my chances. I don’t concern myself with anyone else. I do whatever I can to take care of myself. Anything else that happens, happens."
On the 40 Man Roster, Jason Bergmann and Bill Traber are the only two that can fill the same need, as Speigner. Considering that John Patterson, Shawn Hill and Simontacchi are penciled in as Starters, Washington has Chad Cordero, Jon Rauch, Ryan Wagner and Saul Rivera definitely in the Bullpen. That leaves five further spots on the pitching staff. Jerome Williams and Jason Bergmann most likely make the team, also as starters. King becomes the 5th reliever setting the final two choices among Speigner, Traber, Micah Bowie, Chris Booker, Beltran Perez and maybe Tim Redding. Levale has to be ahead of each of those last four. He's separated himself away from the pack. There is NO WAY Bowden gives him back to the Twins, after Levale shows such promise. Considering the state of this team, right now, that would be foolish.
As I posted earlier, Our Washington Nationals are an ever evolving Franchise. And its gutsy young players like Levale Speigner, fighting their way onto the team, that are going to reach my heart watching baseball in Washington during 2007.