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Scott Rice’s story and similarities to two other former MLB players

Scott Rice-56-Mets

 

New York Mets LHP Scott Rice made his major league debut Monday against the San Diego Padres. The 31 year old pitched a scoreless 9th inning, striking out two finishing off the Mets 11-2 victory. Rice had signed a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training and won a job as a lefty specialist, beating out Robert Carson, who was sent to AAA Las Vegas. The more one reads into Rice’s story of finally making the majors, the more similarities are made to the story of Jim Morris. Morris of course, was the LHP in that made his MLB debut in 1999 at age 35 after mysteriously discovering velocity on his fastball and getting a tryout later than most prospects. Morris was played by Dennis Quaid in the movie “The Rookie”, a story that shows a teacher and baseball coach that is convinced by his players to tryout for the major leagues.

Rice is not Jim Morris, but there some similarities. 31 is not a common age for a player to make their MLB debut. Rice was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1999 draft, 44th overall as a supplemental pick for the Orioles losing free agent Eric Davis. He spent the first 8 years of his professional career in the Orioles organization, converting from a starter to a reliever in A ball in 2002. He seemed to have some success as a middle reliever, reaching AAA in 2006. But he became a minor league free agent that off season and signed with the Texas Rangers. He pitched in just 8 games that season, with 1 game in AA and the remainder in Rookie League and A ball. He was granted free agency that season, and in 2008 pitched for the Long Island Ducks in the Independent League. He pitched terribly that season, giving up 18 runs in just 10 1/3 IP, with a WHIP close to 3.00.

The next season he started out pitching for the Newark Bears and finished off with the San Diego Padres organization, finishing with AA San Antonio. It was after that season (2009) that Rice was at a crossroads. Already pitching professionally for 10 years, he had doubts whether it made sense to continue. He signed a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies, without an invitation to MLB spring training. He was simply competing for a spot on the Rockies AA Tulsa team, as a left handed reliever. The only problem was… he was among 22 left hand pitchers competing for two spots. Most of the others were younger and were drafted or acquired by the Rockies. Rice had decided that if he did not win a spot, he would consider giving up. He made the Tulsa team and pitched to a 0.96 ERA in 35 games before earning a promotion to AAA Colorado Springs later that season. However, he was back in Independent ball in 2011, pitching for the York Revolution before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He once again pitched well in AA, pitching to a 1.95 ERA in 34 games.

He then earned himself a MLB spring training invite for the Dodgers in 2012 being among one of the last cut. In a full season at AAA Alburquerque, he pitched to a 4.40 ERA in 54 games. This year, he was signed to a minor league contract by the Mets and stood out with his ability to get both right and left hand hitters out. In his MLB debut, he proved that by striking out Cameron Maybin and Nick Hundley, both right handed batters.

Rice’s story is inspirational. His determination has finally paid off. While his story does not have the same Hollywood drama Morris’ did, it may have more relation to the story of former Philadelphia Phillies catcher Chris Coste. Coste spent 11 seasons in the minors before making the Phillies in 2006, hitting .326 that season in the bigs. We will see how things turn out with Rice. He is certainly worth rooting for.

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