By: Wade Stevenson
DUNEDIN, Fla. — After moving from the outfield to the mound, Justin Shafer looks to pitch his way to the Major Leagues.
The Toronto Blue Jays' eighth-round pick in the 2014 draft is still adapting to being a full-time pitcher, but relishes the opportunities that lie ahead of him.
The 23-year-old right-hander knows he still has a lot to learn.
“I feel like anybody they’re always trying learn and get better,” Shafer said. “Each year I just try to take some more information and build off of what I did the previous year.”
As a pitcher with limited experience, he knows the importance of getting ahead in the count and what that can do to a pitcher’s psyche.
“It’s pretty simple and everyone always preaches on it but it’s pretty much how to have success as a pitcher,” Shafer said. “You get ahead, you can do whatever you want. But you get behind, you start to get some guys who can actually do some damage. Just staying ahead always is a big deal to have success.”
Shafer realizes the use of his sinker and adding a cutter to his repertoire will help him get through more innings this year.
“It definitely helps to get quick and easy outs,” he said. “It gets the defense engaged because they know I’m going to pitch to contact to try and get quick outs.
“And then having the sinker and developing the cutter last year, having both things working, definitely helped to have success. I’ve always had sink it was just something I had naturally.”
Commanding his pitches more effectively is a big focal point this season for the University of Florida alumnus. Shafer walked 10 batters while giving up 20 earned runs in 22 1/3 innings with Class-A Dunedin last year.
“Just learning how to repeat my delivery and try to come out everyday and command where I want to put it, I’m trying to actually get to the point where I can put it where I want, not just over the strike zone,” Shafer said.
“I feel like anyone ideally wants to make the majors at some point. Wherever they put me I’m going to do the best I can and hopefully have success at whatever level and move up as fast as I can to get to that ultimate goal.”