TAMPA, Fla. – Lefty Shaeffer Hall, a 23-year-old native of Independence, Mo., who grew up in Lee’s Summit, will not impress you with his velocity.
Yet Hall, pushing hard to earn a spot in the Thunder’s 2011 rotation, was drafted three times – by Texas in 2006, Cleveland in 2007 and the Yankees in 2009, when he signed. What did the teams all like? His ability to throw strikes, mix it up and keep hitters off-balance.
“That’s my game, mixing up my pitches and making the hitters work,’’ said Hall, who played collegiately at Jefferson County Community College, where a pitcher named Mark Buehrle attended, and the University of Kansas.
Hall, a 6-foot, 180-pounder, was 11-7, 2.82 in 27 appearances (26 starts) at Class-A stops Charleston and Tampa in 2010. His strikeout/walk ratio was an impressive 114-21, and those 21 walks were rare, considering he threw 137 innings.
“I just go out there, give it all I have and trust my fielders to help me out,’’ said Hall. “I try to keep the ball on the ground and let the guys behind me make the play.’’
And “those guys behind’’ enjoy playing with Hall, who works quickly, has a definite idea of what he wants to do, repeats his delivery well and throws strikes. Home runs? He allowed just eight in those 137 innings last season.
Hall has looked impressive so far in the Thunder camp. The coaches love his work-ethic, which has resulted in him adding to his approach.
“Last year, I added a changeup that really helped me a lot in Tampa because I was facing a lot of right-handed hitters,’’ he said. “I thought I needed that to go with my fastball (sitting at 87-91 mph) and my curve (which registers about 77).
“I just go out and do what I do the best I can. I know I won’t blow anyone away.’’
Since Hall’s game involves hitting spots, and staying on top of hitters, he is working on a fourth pitch in anticipation of the tougher competition he’ll face in the Eastern League in 2011. He is adding a cutter, which was effective intrasquad play last week.
Hall is a master of adjustment, looking to stay one step ahead of the guys who are paid to produce runs.
“I figure most of the hitters I faced in the Class-A leagues last year saw pretty much of what I have. With the cutter, I’ll give them something they haven’t seen from me.
“I know, as I move up in levels, it doesn’t get easier, it gets harder. You have to be able to play your game. You have to keep working.’’
Perhaps Hall got his balanced approach from his parents, Eric, who played basketball at William Jewell College and Maribeth, who played softball at Missouri Western. He comes from a family which showed a lot of athletic talent in the Show-Me State.
After his success in the Class-A leagues, Hall is focused on landing a spot with the Thunder.
“My goal for this spring training was to make the Double-A roster, get to Trenton to start the season. The way I go about pitching will never change. I just go out there, give it all I’ve got and work hard in between starts.’’
And when he feels his overall package needs a new ingredient, Hall embraces the challenge.
No wonder Thunder pitching coach Tommy Phelps and others are high on this emerging southpaw.
LAIRD HAPPY WHERE HE IS: Brandon Laird, who had a breakout season with the Thunder, was optioned to Triple-A Scranton last week, but remained with the Yankees in Grapefruit League play.
He had hoped to get a shot as a bench player with the Yankees this spring, but an outstanding spring-training by veteran and former Oakland All-Star Eric Chavez kind of scotched that.
“I have no trouble going to Scranton and working on what I have to work on, playing some more outfield to make my all-around game better. Certainly I’m hoping to hit like I did last season in Trenton.’’
Versatility and the bat will be Laird’s keys in 2011, as he aims for a call-up to a ballpark in the Bronx.
Baselines is providing daily spring-training reports from its annual trip to the Thunder camp in Tampa, Fla., last week. Comments are welcomed below, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at @jedleyq.