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Scottsdale notes: McCormick makes moves

After three years at Double-A, big leagues loom for Giants sidearmer
November 4, 2015

When Phil McCormick put on his jersey in the Arizona Fall League for the first time, he also took a step closer to the Major Leagues.

Aside from the literal sense, as players wear big league uniforms in the AFL, the Giants prospect was finally moving on from Double-A Richmond after three seasons in the Flying Squirrels' red and black.

"I had a lot of learning to do and I really had to work on some control issues," the sidearming left-hander said. "This year, I feel like I took the next step, but at the same time, even coming [to Arizona], I know I have a lot more to work on and I think it's going to be a blessing in disguise."

In 2011, McCormick graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in chemical engineering, then was chosen by the Giants in the 31st round of the First-Year Player Draft. He advanced to Class A Advanced San Jose to start his first full season in 2012 and was promoted to the Eastern League the following year.

Unfortunately for McCormick, that's where things stalled.

Frustrated but not discouraged, the 27-year-old has battled injuries and illness as he remained a stable part of the Flying Squirrels' bullpen.

"I like trying to stay on the field as much as possible. I take pride in being available as much as I can, and whenever you get put on the DL, it's never a fun thing," he said. "You have to find ways to keep yourself motivated to get back on the field."

McCormick made his latest Double-A campaign his best, posting a 2.04 ERA -- his top mark since pitching for Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer in 2011 -- in 58 appearances. With the big leagues a phone call away, the Connecticut native continued to improve as the season progressed, not allowing a run over his final 16 outings.

"I feel like as the season goes on every year, I feel like I get closer and closer," McCormick said. "It's fun watching other players break the glass ceiling of the Minor Leagues, like fellow [Missouri] Tiger [and Giants prospect] Ryan Lollis. He worked his tail off this season, started in High A and ended up making the big leagues. And a couple other guys that I got drafted with, Kelby Tomlinson, [Giants No. 13 prospect] Mac Williamson.

"The list goes on and on and I just want to follow in their footsteps. If I can get there. then [I'll] try to make an impact right away."

Before McCormick can put on a San Francisco uniform for real, or even a Triple-A Sacramento jersey, he's looking to improve while wearing a Scottsdale Saguaros cap.

"I'm really trying to work on fastball command and making sure that I don't fall into a pattern, especially when I'm facing lefties, because that's something that I expect to do in the big leagues," he said. "Also, on top of that, I'm just trying to work on my repertoire a little more, trying to develop more of a changeup so that I can get righties out more consistently.

"My biggest thing, I would say, is my efficiency, just making sure that I get strike one, strike two quickly and making sure that I get two strikes before I get two balls."

No matter the level, through players who've come and gone, McCormick has made sure to soak in the experiences he's shared with teammates in the Giants system and now with Red Sox and Tigers prospects on the Scorpions.

"It's just a great experience being able to hang out with those guys. Every single team I've been on, especially this one, you see guys with the talent to get there," he said. "Once you see the plethora of personalities that are all around you, it's something that I really try to keep in mind and make sure that my work isn't just tied to baseball, but it's tied to the relationships that I make."

If all goes according to plan, McCormick could realize his Major League dream next year -- if not a uniform change of some sort at the very least.

"I hope I get the opportunity and I'll be ready for it whenever it comes my way," he said. "But if it doesn't, then it's always nice to have a degree to fall back on."

Wildcat defense: Pitchers Taylor Rogers and Chandler Shepherd are playing together for the first time since Kentucky reached the NCAA Tournament in 2012 with a pitching staff that also featured Astros No. 2 prospect A.J. Reed, who's now a first baseman. Rogers, the Twins' No. 13 prospect, has thrown nine scoreless innings over two starts after a shaky beginning to the Fall League, while Shepherd -- a Red Sox reliever -- has posted zeros in three of his five appearances. Shepherd has taken the ball just once from Rogers so far, but it led to a blown save, so they're looking to recapture the success they enjoyed three years ago in the Southeastern Conference.

Christmas comes early: The Scorpions lead the league in batting, thanks in large part to Christian Arroyo. The Giants' second-ranked prospect tops the AFL with a .400 average and has 18 hits, including five for extra bases, and three walks over 11 games while striking out only four times. The Florida native has thrived with runners on base, hitting .500 with eight RBIs in run-producing situations.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.