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Schultz continues to defy odds on the mound

Special to

SYDNEY -- Get Bo Schultz the ball.

That simple mantra reverberated throughout the Mobile BayBears clubhouse on the night of Sept. 12, 2013, just minutes after the team had fallen behind the Birmingham Barons, two games to none, in the best-of-five Southern League Championship Series.

Schultz was in line to be the Game 4 starter, having excelled in his second-half transition from a reliever into a starting role.

"I knew if we could get it to Game 4, then we'd have a chance to win a championship," recalled Andy Green, Schultz's mnager with Mobile. "We had a great rotation, but he became the guy we wanted to hand the ball to late in the series, because we knew he'd do the job."

Schultz ultimately got the ball in Game 4. And he did what Green and everyone else in the BayBears clubhouse expected him to do -- he tossed 7 2/3 sparkling innings in a 3-1 victory to force a decisive fifth game. Though the BayBears ultimately dropped that finale -- falling one victory short of capturing a third straight Southern League title -- the emergence of Schultz was not something to be ignored.

"He handled the transition from a reliever into a starter with an incredible amount of maturity," said Green. "[We] saw his [velocity] go up, saw his sink increasing, and just saw everything improve, and it's what's turned him into what you see today. I think he's more than just a viable big league option -- I think he's someone who's going to have a real positive impact on that big league club this year."

Schultz agrees that the opportunity to join the rotation last year has benefited him greatly going into the 2014 season.

"I thought it was a good transition," he said, standing in front of the Members Pavilion at the Sydney Cricket Ground, just minutes after learning that he had made the D-backs' Opening Day roster. "It gave me an opportunity to get here -- at least get here for Day 1. I was definitely pleased with the opportunity. Anything that increases my versatility and gives me a chance to compete for a job with the big league team is something I want to do."

Having made his Major League debut by tossing a scoreless inning vs. the Dodgers last Sunday, Schultz did something that just a few years ago seemed utterly impossible. Undrafted out of Northwestern University, where he earned a degree in journalism and finished his collegiate career 3-10 with a 9.13 ERA, the Dallas native was signed by the Oakland A's in 2008.

In his time in the Oakland organization, Schultz made 88 appearances over the course of three-plus seasons, going 12-7 with a 3.90 ERA. He made it as high as advanced Class A Stockton, but was released early in the '11 campaign.

"When I got released, as a submarine pitcher, I was coming off my worst 18 hours -- awful night game, followed by an awful day game and done," Schultz said. "From there my thought [was], 'I'm never going to play baseball again.'"

Enter Independent ball. Schultz held onto the dream, signing with the Grand Prairie AirHogs, which at the time he considered "a fun thing to do on the side." Schultz pitched well, while having plenty of fun, and he was signed by the D-backs prior to the 2012 season.

He capped his first year in the organization by recording the final out of Mobile's 2012 Southern League championship run, securing a 1-0 victory over the Jackson Generals to win the series in four games.

"Being a part of a winning team like that is special," he said. "Learning to win in the Minor Leagues is a key, and fortunately that's something that I've learned how to do over the last two years."

One year later -- on top of all of his team's success -- Schultz's numbers in 2013 were eye-catching. In 20 appearances with the BayBears (16 of them starts), the right-hander went 5-4 with a 2.86 ERA, allowing just 62 hits in 85 innings.

"What a difference two years can make," said Schultz. "Two years ago, I was just back in affiliated ball. I had a Spring Training invitation with no definite job. I was a 26-year-old guy who'd never been to Double-A. It's pretty cool to be here now."

Craig Durham is a contributor to

Arizona Diamondbacks, Bo Schultz