- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On Sept. 17, Washington Nationals right-handed reliever Chris Schroder nearly made baseball history when he struck out all six batters he faced in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Schroder fell one strikeout shy of the National League record for strikeouts by a reliever held by Arizona’s Randy Johnson, who fanned seven straight on July 19, 2001. Schroder, who opened last season at Class AA Harrisburg, worked his way up through the organization’s minor league system with a stop at Class AAA New Orleans. This spring, he is battling for one of the few available spots in the Nationals’ bullpen. Ken Wright caught up with Schroder on Tuesday.

Q:How do think you did last season?

A:Well, it was a good experience after spending five years or whatever it was in the minors. Obviously, I was excited to be there and get my first chance. I pitched really well at times and I pitched bad at times. All in all, it was good to get the experience. I think I proved I can pitch there — get my slider a little better — and minimize the bad outings.

Q:You had a real good outing with the Nationals when you struck out six in a row. Can you talk about that? That must have been highlight for you and your baseball career.

A:Yeah, it was against the Brewers. That was just one of those days. Everything felt good, everything felt right. You felt like everything you threw up there, they’re not going to hit. I had real good control that day, I had real good life. I was getting ahead, going up in the strike zone, and guys were chasing. It was one of those days. You wish you had more of them, but it felt really good.

Q:During this offseason, did you change your delivery?

A:It didn’t change a lot. I went down to the Dominican [Republic] for a couple weeks and worked with [Jose] Rijo down there. Really the only visible thing is we just raised my hands up a little bit in the set position. I changed the grip on my slider and how to hold it. We raised my hands a little bit. The thinking is to keep me on top of the ball a little more on the slider and changeup. It’s worked well for me. It [slider] definitely changed a lot, it’s got more depth to it. I’ve been throwing it pretty well here, but I’ve got to keep throwing it. You can’t learn a new pitch and have it in two weeks. You’ve got to keep throwing it every day and keep working on it.

Q:But, are you more three-quarters now?

A:I’ve always been three-quarters or considered myself that way. My arm angle really hasn’t changed. The only visible part is the hands being just a little bit higher.

Q:Is Jose Rijo a slider specialist? Last year, Ramon Ortiz went down there to work on his slider. It seems everybody goes to him to work on their sliders. Is he the master?

A:I think so. Obviously, when he was pitching he had one of the best sliders in the game. I think certain guys are better at certain things. He definitely knew what he was talking about. He gave me different ideas and other ways to think about it where it sunk in a little bit, but yeah, he’s a good slider teacher.

Q:Were you the only one down there? Was there a couple of you guys there?

A:I was the only one that went down there. There was a couple…[Cristian] Guzman worked out there, Tony Blanco and some guys who worked out there and lived there, but I was the only guy from the States.

Q:Speaking of Guzman, did you try the Cuban food he bought for everybody?

A:Yeah, it’s good. It was really good today.

Q:How’s your camp going so far?

A:Good, so far. My arm feels good, healthy. It’s going pretty well, I’m throwing my slider. I’m trying to get consistent. At first, one day would be really good, but then the second day. It’s gotten a lot more consistent. Some days are still better than others, but even the bad days aren’t that bad any more. So, it’s getting consistent, and like I said, it feels good.

Q:Since you were called up at the end of last season, do you feel you have an advantage over some of these other guys in camp?

A:I’ve got an advantage maybe to point where some of the coaches in here saw me pitch and [know] what I can do. It always helps to have big-league time. It’s the experience factor, getting up there and getting seen.

Q:So, as an Oklahoma native, are you a Sooners fan?

A:Actually, I’m more of a Cowboys guy, Oklahoma State. I didn’t go to either one. I went to Oklahoma City University. I don’t get crazy.

Q:I was going to ask you about the Oklahoma/Boise State game in the Fiesta Bowl? What did you think about that game?

A:That was one of the wildest games that I’ve ever seen. It was a good game, it was a good game to watch. Just when you thought somebody had it under control, momentum switched the other way.

Q:If you weren’t playing baseball, what do think you would be doing?

A:I’ve got a finance degree. So, I would probably be out there in the business world somewhere maybe, working at some kind of investment company or something like banking.

Q:Would you consider the business side of baseball?

A:You never know, but more likely not. If I wasn’t in baseball, I wouldn’t have the connections to do that kind of stuff anyway.

Q:Were you invited to spring training last year?

A:Not big-league camp, nope, minor league camp.

Q:Is this a different experience for you?

A:Yeah. It’s not a lot different, but it’s a little more laid back, not quite as maybe demanding kind of thing.

Q:Is there a lot of pressure in minor league camp since everybody is basically in the same boat and all striving for the same thing?

A:I don’t think there’s any more pressure because a lot of guys up here are trying to do the same thing. I don’t think there’s a manager here or there, you’ve still got to prove that you’re trying to make a certain team whatever level it may be at. How many guys? Somebody still has to be released. You still have to perform to try and get where you want to be.

Q:Obviously you want a spot on the Opening Day roster, everybody in this clubhouse does. If you don’t and say open up at Class AAA Columbus or maybe even Class AA Harrisburg, would that bother you?

A:No. Obviously, I’m going to do what I can to try and be up there, but if it doesn’t [work out] I still know that if I pitch well and do your stuff, you’re going to get an opportunity.

Q:Is that the bottom line — if you pitch well, everything will work out?

A:That’s all you can control is your pitching. You leave the decisions up to them and see what happens.

Q:What is your fastball clocked at?

A:I usually pitch 91 miles per hour and up.

Q:Are you a middle reliever or are you more of a situational late-game guy?

A:Last year when I was up there, I was more of a long guy and middle guy. Obviously, we had [Jon] Rauch and [Chad] Cordero. But, throughout my career, in theminorr leagues I’ve mostly been a late-inning guy, eight or nine. A couple years I closed. After a half season, I was a closer. I was a setup man a lot. A lot of times I would throw in the seventh or eighth, Usually, one or two innings, but I was up there just because of the need I pitched more middle relief.

Q:Perhaps the only hole in the bullpen is that of the long man. Do you think that job would interest you?

A:I haven’t talked to anybody about it. I definitely can do it. You might have to throw two or even three [innings] or more sometimes. When you get into a role and you’re used to it, I think it’s fine. There was a coupleoccasionss last year when I threw three innings, it didn’t bother me. So, any role. I’ll take any role I can get. I think I can pitch in all those different roles.

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