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Texas notes: Shoemaker on the radar08/09/2011 10:00 AM ET
By Todd Traub / Special to MLB.com
Matt Shoemaker usually doesn't notice the scouts. Of course, until this year, scouts hadn't paid much attention to him either.
The Arkansas Travelers right-hander entered this season with a respectable but not spectacular 15-10 career record and 4.41 ERA. Shoemaker, who signed with the Los Angeles Angels as a nondrafted free agent, opened the year as he has all others, absent from anyone's list of prospects.
"I just want to keep trying to get better," said Shoemaker, who helped Arkansas to a first-half North Division championship. "Just focus and try and move up."
Shoemaker is 10-2 with a league-best 2.47 ERA. He leads the Travelers with 106 strikeouts while issuing just 23 walks and has five complete games with two shutouts while holding opponents to a league-low .221 average.
"He's a low-walk guy with high innings," Angels farm director Abe Flores said. "Really low-walk guy, so it just goes to show you how efficient he's been this year."
Shoemaker signed with the Angels out of Eastern Michigan University in 2008. His best season, prior to this year, was 2009 when he went 5-1 in two Class A stops and finished with a 3.33 ERA.
Shoemaker was 9-9 with a 5.03 ERA between Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga and Triple-A Salt Lake last season. In his first year with Arkansas, he has held up his end of a starting staff that features four All-Stars, including durable Angels prospect Garrett Richards (12-2 with a 3.06 ERA and a league-high 141 1/3 innings pitched).
"You definitely try and take pride in everything you do," Shoemaker said. "If you take pride in everything you do, you get better results."
Shoemaker said he has closed up his delivery and is keeping the ball down, while Flores noted he has added a couple miles per hour on his fastball. But Shoemaker attributed his success mostly to his off-day work with pitching coach Brandon Emmanuel and keeping his focus on the mound, which includes tuning out the scouts clustered with their radar guns behind home plate.
"I guess that's one good thing, while you're pitching, you don't really notice them -- you kind of block everything out," said Shoemaker, who nonetheless felt he had something to prove at the outset of his pro career. "But definitely, especially my first time with the Angels, them giving me the opportunity, the motivation was 'Hey, I know I can go out and pitch, and if I can keep trying to get better, I can keep doing that.'"
It hasn't always been a snap for Shoemaker this year. With the game-time temperature a steaming 107 degrees in a recent start against Springfield at North Little Rock's Dickey-Stephens Park, Shoemaker couldn't locate his fastball and suffered what could have been a disastrous first inning. He hit two men and walked two more while facing 10 batters as Springfield took a 4-0 lead. But Shoemaker got his hands dried and retired 12 of his next 13 en route to the 11-7 victory.
Shoemaker agreed that sometimes the victories aren't pretty, but they are better than the alternative.
"The first inning, was absolute -- it was terrible, obviously," Shoemaker said. "You just want to rebound from that and go out and give yourself a chance to win."
Now it looks like Shoemaker has given himself a chance to win at the next level.
"All of a sudden he's on the radar," Flores said. "Obviously, he's having some success at an upper level, so he's separating himself from the pack."
Timmons keeps hitting: Midland second baseman Wes Timmons took a 15-game hitting streak into Monday's action and was two games shy of matching the longest streak of the season. Springfield's Charles Cutler and Ryan Jackson posted overlapping, 17-game hitting streaks in June and July.
Traded tandem: New San Antonio pitcher Robbie Erlin was the scheduled starter against his old team, the Frisco RoughRiders, on Monday night. Erlin and fellow pitcher Joe Wieland switched teams as part of a trade between Frisco's parent Texas Rangers and the Missions' big league club, the San Diego Padres. Wieland made his debut with San Antonio and got the victory against Corpus Christi on Thursday. Erlin won his Missions debut against Corpus Christi a week ago.