Alex Schmarzo was the Orioles 48th round draft pick in 2010 out of St. Mary’s College. The 6’3″ right-hander was somewhat inconsistent in college and experienced a couple of minor injuries, causing him to drop to the final day of the draft. Schmarzo caught my eye this spring in Twin Lakes when I heard his low-90s fastball popping the mitt while he warmed in the bullpen. You can read about my initial impressions of Schmarzo that day here, catch his Orioles Nation scouting report here, and follow him on Twitter @aschmarzo. Alex was kind enough to answer a few of my questions via e-mail.
DS: How would you describe the experience at your first spring training camp? Anything unexpected?
AS: Spring training was an absolutely amazing experience. As someone who loves baseball there’s no greater feeling than being able to wake up and know that you’re going to the ballpark that day. Although it can seem a bit overwhelming your first time there, a lot of the older guys were quick to show the younger guys the ropes.
As far as expectation, I wouldn’t say there was anything that caught me off guard – I came from a college program that emphasized professionalism in how you carry yourself both on and off the field. I will say though, it was very refreshing to have the coaching staff address you as an equal; they truly treat their players like adults.
DS: I know it’s early, but how has the adjustment to pro ball been thus far?
AS: Professional baseball is about what I had expected. Thankfully, I was able to get my feet wet in Aberdeen last year, so I had a chance to get myself acclimated to life in the minors. In addition to my brief experience in Aberdeen I spent 3 summers playing in the Northwoods League, which seeks to imitate the lifestyle of minor league baseball. The travel, league setup, and game schedule all mimic the minor league experience. Between Aberdeen and the Northwoods I’ve found the transition to be relatively simple, especially in comparison to some younger players.
DS: For those who haven’t seen you pitch, could you describe your arsenal and overall game?
AS: My fastball generally sits in the 90-93 mph range, I also throw a changeup in the 79-81 mph range and a curveball in the 73-75 range. The changeup is my best offspeed pitch; I can use it as a chase pitch as well as throw it for strikes. The curve is a pitch that needs work. It works well if the hitter isn’t looking for it but it certainly has room to grow.
In terms of my approach, I like to attack hitters, particularly with the inside fastball. Getting ahead of hitters is paramount for success as a pitcher – especially out of the bullpen. Commanding a fastball to both sides of the plate and complementing it with a quality offspeed pitch has been the recipe to success for so many pitchers; I just try to follow that game plan.
DS: You sat out your senior year of high school due to an injury and subsequent surgery to your throwing arm. Can you elaborate on the type of injury and describe the rehab/recovery process?
I had nerve transposition surgery on my right arm. I had a sharp pain in the elbow during our high school’s annual alumni game and I sat out the remainder of the year while doctors attempted to pinpoint what exactly was causing the pain. Eventually Dr. Laura Timmerman was able to identify the nerve as the culprit, and I went under the knife in July. Thankfully nerve transposition is not a major surgery, and I was back on the mound within a few months.
DS: You were selected by the Orioles on the third day of the draft last year. Were you expecting to be selected where you were? Had the Orioles expressed interest to you?
AS: The draft was a rather interesting experience for me to state the least. I broke my pinkie finger on my right hand on the first day of the draft while playing basketball. We didn’t learn that it was broken until late in the 2nd day when we decided to get it x-rayed just to be safe. It had previously been identified as merely jammed, but something didn’t feel right on it. I had received a few calls from teams starting in the 12th round, but obviously the broken finger threw a wrench into our plans. The Orioles called and said that they were planning on using a late round pick on me, and hopefully would come to a deal with me once the finger healed. I certainly wasn’t expecting to go in the 48th round before the draft started, but I am very grateful that it ultimately worked out with the Orioles – regardless of the round.
On the note of the Orioles expressing interest in me, I hadn’t heard much from them before the draft. The scout who signed me only contacted me once in the fall, and once more a few days before the draft requesting doctors notes regarding the aforementioned surgery. I know he was covering a large area, so that may have played a factor in how often I was contacted.
DS: You’ve said that it’s been invaluable to have guys like Scott McGregor around to learn from. Can you describe your experiences with him and any other coaches this spring?
AS: The entire Orioles coaching staff is fantastic, not just Scotty. The amount of information that they expose you to, and the manner in which they break down the tenants of pitching simplifies the entire process. The pitching philosophy that Dave Schmidt, Alan Dunn, and the rest of the staff teaches you is simple and effective. Scotty is an absolute pleasure to have around just because of the amount of big league experience he has. The man knows pitching, plain and simple. Being able to learn the game from someone as experienced as him is absolutely invaluable; to throw away the opportunity to soak up his knowledge would be a waste.
DS: Do you have any specific goals this season?
AS: I’d like to perform well, consistently – it’s pretty much as simple as that. I learned in college that setting goals in regards to your personal stats can lead you down the wrong path. Wherever I end up this season I would simply like to perform well and help the team. Pitching well and constantly improving your game will ultimately lead you to the right place.