March 23, 2017
Right-handed pitcher Justin Shafer is hoping to build off his experience in big league camp.
Shafer, who had the opportunity to pitch an inning for the Blue Jays last month, didn’t allow an earned run, and picked up a strikeout in his first taste of major league life.
While his first experience in a Blue Jays’ uniform didn’t last as long as he would’ve liked, Shafer gained valuable experience that will serve him well moving forward.
“Having the chance to go over to big league camp was pretty awesome,” explained Shafer. “It gives you a small taste of what every player is working towards and what you’ve dreamt about since you were a kid. I think any time you get to face the quality of hitters you’ll face at the major league level, it’s going to help you. If anything it gives you some confidence to know that you can get outs at that level, and it’s just figuring out how to do that consistently so you can compete there every day.”
This wasn’t the first time Shafer faced high level competition, as he spent the past two off-seasons playing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.
While, Shafer experienced some growing pains in the challenging league last fall allowing 12 earned runs in 14 innings pitched; the righty also took away the knowledge of what he needed to do to earn the next promotion in his career.
“Getting to play an extra month and getting to see the up-and-coming players is always a good thing for your career,” stated Shafer. “A lot of the players in the AFL are going to be in the big leagues, and will be the players you will throw against the rest of your career, if you ever get the opportunity to make it up. It teaches you a lot about where you are with your game and the adjustments you still need to make to move up.”
All of this extra preparation will help Shafer get back on track to where he was in Lansing in 2015.
After posting an impressive 1.14 WHIP, and respectable .223 opponent batting average in 73 innings with the Lugnuts’, it appeared that Shafer was on the fast track to success with high-A Dunedin.
Unfortunately, Shafer had a few setbacks last season in the Florida State League, as his WHIP rose to 1.48, and his opponent batting average went up to .278 in 115 1/3 FSL innings.
Feeling fastball command was the main component to his higher numbers in Dunedin; Shafer is focused on fixing that aspect of his game in 2017.
“My goals revolve around my fastball,” said Shafer. “When I’ve commanded my fastball, I’ve had success, and when I don’t command it, I haven’t had success. I feel if I can fix that area of my game I can have a really good year. I would love to have a year like I did in the Midwest League and see where it takes me, whether that be New Hampshire, or wherever. I want to be consistent, I think if I can be consistent both physically and mentally the rest will take care of itself.”
If Justin Shafer can find that consistency with his fastball, fans can expect to see him pitching on one of the Blue Jays higher level affiliates soon.