August 5, 2008
By David Driver
For the Gazette
Used with permission
RICHMOND, Va. — Atlanta has been riddled by injuries this season, and for the first time in years the Braves were sellers and not buyers at the nonwaiver trade deadline in late July.
The club's roster moves trickled down to the minor leaguers, where the Triple-A Richmond Braves made more than 100 transactions in the first four months of the season.
Some of them involved Cedar Rapids native Zach Schreiber, 26, a right-handed reliever who was drafted by the Braves in 2004 out of Duke University.
"It has been a crazy year for the whole organization," Schreiber said.
The word disappointing could be used for crazy.
While Richmond had 13 players make Major League promotions through July, the destination for Schreiber was Atlanta's spring training facility in Florida and not Turner Field in Georgia.
Schreiber, in the midst of another impressive season, was placed on the disabled list in late June.
"I came down to Florida a few weeks ago. I was having a little pain with my flexor tendon," Schreiber said last week. "It had been bothering me for a couple of weeks and I tried to throw through it."
Matt Price, the assistant director of player development for Atlanta, said Schreiber "has played through some pain."
The news could have been worse. Schreiber went to Alabama to visit Dr. James Andrews recently, and was told surgery was not necessary.
"He just recommended that I come here and do rehab," Schreiber said after a recent morning rehab session in Kissimmee, Fla.
Schreiber was one of the top pitchers out of the Richmond bullpen this season. He was 2-2 with an ERA of 2.97 and a team-high six saves when he went on the DL for the second time this season.
In 39 1/3 innings he allowed just 29 hits, but also gave up 26 walks with 29 strikeouts. Opponents hit .209 against him.
"I was pitching well enough to get called up, I think," said Schreiber, who has never pitched in the majors.
Atlanta scout Billy Best, who signed Schreiber, remembers seeing him pitch on Opening Day for Duke in February 2004. In the ACC tournament later that year Schreiber was hit with a comebacker to the mound against Clemson but stayed in the game.
"He was a pretty tough kid," Best said. "He showed some arm strength early. I saw him pitch last year at Durham (for Richmond) and he hit 95" on the radar gun.
Schreiber has allowed less than one hit per inning every season, and with every team, since 2005.
Last year he allowed 51 hits in 78 innings split between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Richmond. He was a midseason All-Star in the Double-A Southern League in 2007 and he had 21 saves for Mississippi in 2006.
"His career numbers are outstanding," said Price, another ACC product who played at Wake Forest. "He has an above-average slider."
The 6-foot-1 Schreiber hopes to pitch again before the minor league season ends in early September. He said last week he hopes to start throwing again this week during his rehabilitation.
Schreiber said he has had mild pain in the past.
"This year I just couldn't kick it. This is what I needed to do," he said.
Schreiber certainly has a good backup plan. He graduated from Duke with a degree in economics. But before turning to finance he wants to pitch in "The Show."
"I was on the 40-man roster earlier this year (for the first time), but they took me off, which was kind of frustrating," he said. "That is the way the game works. I may have to play some this fall or winter to show them I am healthy."
Schreiber spent the past two off-seasons working out in Mississippi with other pro players. He said he may play in Mexico or Venezuela this winter, especially if he cannot return to pro ball by early September.
"I don't want to push it," he said. "I want to make sure I don't have any pain. I would like to be able to show them I can come back and be healthy."