GOODYEAR, Arizona (AP) — Scott Schebler needed a year to settle in. Now he’s ready to win.
A year ago Schebler was new to the Reds and was competing with Adam Duvall, another newcomer, for playing time in left field.
“I think the biggest thing is I know people now,” Schebler said. “Not knowing anybody here was uncomfortable for me. This year is different.
“I really think this team can surprise people. Clubhouse environment-wise, I haven’t seen much better than here. All the guys have one goal in mind. The talent is here if we perform with consistency.”
Schebeler spent six seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization after LA drafted him in the 26th round in 2010. The Reds traded Todd Frazier in a three-team deal in which Cincinnati acquired Schebler, Jose Peraza and Brandon Dixon.
Schebler was impressive enough to make the team out of spring training, when he hit .288 with three home runs and 15 RBIs. Schebler came off the bench on opening day and hit a decisive two-run double off Philadelphia’s Dalier Hinojosa.
There was little success other than that. Schebler hit .175 in 26 appearances (14 starts). He was sent to Louisville to get regular playing time on May 8.
“It was a totally different ballgame than spring training,” Schebler said. “It is a totally different feel once you get into a season. The speed of the game is a lot quicker. Then to be platooning and not getting every day at-bats, was just something I’d never done before. To do it on that stage was really tough.”
Schebler tried to battle through and was starting to feel comfortable in the role, but Duvall was taking off on his way to an All-Star season. Manager Bryan Price is not a big fan of the platoon system and the team had Jay Bruce in right field and Billy Hamilton in center.
“I’m not into platoon unless the players play out with bigger splits against right-handed and left-handed pitching,” Price said.
Duvall was hitting right-handers at a .242 clip and left-handers at a .238 level, with power. Schebler hit right-handers at a .278 average but was hitting just .195 against lefties.
Schebler thrived after he was sent to Louisville. He hit .311 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs in 75 games. Schebler was chosen for the Baseball America Triple-A All-Star team and the Reds’ MiLB.com Organization All-Star squad.
When Bruce was traded to the Mets in late July, Schebler was ready. He had three hits, including a walk-off home run off St. Louis Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh on Aug. 2.
“The first game really helped me out to get my confidence back,” Schebler said. “I got to know what I could do on a baseball field. Obviously, I struggled after that for a little bit, then came back strong.”
Starting on Aug. 14, Schebler hit .329 in his last 44 games of the season with 14 extra-base hits (7 home runs) and 28 RBIs. It was patience at the plate that got him going again.
“I learned there are no off days in the big leagues,” Schebler said. “You’re not going to get a guy on the mound who is going to lay it over the plate for you. Baseball is such a weird sport; I had some success when I came back up, then went through the stretch where I scuffled but I was putting decent at-bats together. I started walking. That calmed my nerves. Once I got hot, I continued that through the rest of the year. I put myself in position to play right field this spring.”
That last month made a believer out of Price.
“Schebler has athleticism and instincts,” Price said of the young athlete who played baseball, football, basketball, track and soccer at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “His arm was better than we thought. He pushed the envelope at Triple-A and got enough at-bats to the point I feel he is our right fielder.”