Monday, February 23, 2009

A Few Minutes With Steven Shell

When The African Queen and I first met Steven Shell at NatsFest, we found him to be quiet, yet confident. One of those guys that sort of flies under the radar--successful at his work--but unnoticed by many baseball fans--maybe even Baseball Operations. After toiling in The Angels system for seven seasons and never coming close to The Major Leagues. Shell was picked up by Washington as a Minor League Free Agent in November of 2007, Always a starter in The Angels system, Shell found his path blocked to the Big Leagues by a host of quality pitchers--Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Jared Weaver and even K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez--out of The Angels bullpen.

Yet, his Minor League Track Record was pretty good. Steven Shell just needed the opportunity to prove himself. Our Washington Nationals gave him that chance out their bullpen in 2008 and he shined over 39 mostly excellent outings. Shell was a solid contributor--finishing last year with a solid 2.16 ERA--garnering two saves (one in the form of the rare three inning stint). Back for his sophomore season wearing Number 59--Steven Shell was kind enough to chat with Sohna and I yesterday afternoon after practice in Viera. Jason Bergmann actually grabbing him for us: "Shell, come over here--take a picture with us and talk to these nice folks."

With that--here we go with A Few Minutes With Steven Shell:

“When I was with the Angels they a lot of a lot of good young pitchers. One guy won 20 games in the big leagues and another guy that set a team record for wins by a rookie (Weaver & Saunders). They had Ervin Santana and Francisco Rodriguez—all these really talented guys which made it really tough to break into their lineup. It was really hard to catch a break over there. But over here (in Washington), I am really enjoying pitching out of the pen. All the guys are really nice and I really believe we are going to win a lot of games.”

With the Angels it was a numbers game, did that get you down that maybe you would never get a chance to show what you can do? (SBF)

“Whatever God has planned for me, he’s planned for me. I played on that Olympic Team with Davey Johnson as Manager. Then, an opportunity opened up here in Washington and I am truly thankful for that opportunity to pitch.”

When that opportunity came here last year, was it still difficult to adjust being in a new system, maybe not really knowing many people in this organization and having to impress another management group all over again? (SBF)

“Well, yes and no. Over the years, you meet a lot of guys from all over the country just by playing with them or against them. So, there is that familiarity. But when I first got here, I met all the guys and I settled in really quickly. I was comfortable and that helped in my adjustment to pitching for Washington. As for the team itself, they had some openings (in the bullpen) and when I pitched well, they gave me a chance. That’s all I was asking for and it turned out well.”

Yet with The Angels, you were always a starter. Washington has thrown you into a relief role? Are you comfortable and satisfied with that role? (SBF)

“I wouldn’t say comfort is a good thing. You always want to strive to be better. I do like pitching out of the pen a lot. It became the way for me to make it to the big leagues—a point in my career I had not reached before. So, that is always good. It was a positive, so I didn’t have a preference of either-or. I wanted to pitch in the big leagues—and do well.”

And even with the team struggling on the field--for you—2008 was a great experience? (SBF)

“Absolutely. The experience made everything worthwhile. Yeah, we had our struggles and there at the end of the season we started to win a lot of games. We just ran out of time. If we could have had a couple more months, it could have been a different story. We swept Philly and they won The World Series. We were beating The Cubs and different teams like that were in the playoffs already. At the end, we started to come together and play some good baseball. There really is some good talent on this team. We just need to stay healthy and progress together.”

Not knowing where you stood with a new franchise in 2008 and coming out with a very successful rookie season—what did you learn about yourself last year? (SBF)

“It’s sounds corny, but I learned to take it one day at a time. Whether you did good or bad, you had to take the last day into the past and focus on the very next day because that’s already happened. So, if you can take one pitch at a time, one day at a time—and live in the present—I think you will be alright. It’s a challenge to compete on this level successfully and you have got to keep yourself straight to succeed.”

What's the atmosphere like so far in camp over the past week as opposed to last year? (The African Queen)

“Really, I look at it as the same. You still have to go out there and prove you can still do it every day. If you stop proving you can do it—that’s not good. You have to continually impress those that give you the job. So, you have to continually think that you haven’t made it yet and you have to keep on trying to get those guys out.”

You mentioned earlier how pleased you are with the current makeup of the spring roster--hopeful that Washington can really step up in 2009? (SBF)

“We do have some good young pitchers—talent surrounded by some veterans. Balester, Lannan and now (Jordan) Zimmermann. We signed Adam Dunn and a whole lot of guys like Dmitri (Young) and Nick Johnson coming back healthy. And if everybody stays healthy, we are going to be a really good team. I really believe that.”

With that Our Few Minutes With Steven Shell concluded. He is one of those young guys you cheer for because you can understand he appreciates the very fact he has been given the rare opportunity to be a Major League Player. A job skill so many would love to partake in, but don't have the necessary talent or make-up to succeed in.

Hailing from Longview, Texas--Sohna calls Steven Shell--Her Southern Gentleman.

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