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Reliever Spitzbarth making a name for himself

Dodgers right-hander turns heads with third scoreless outing
MLB.com @kengurnick

MESA, Ariz. -- Shea Spitzbarth may be an unfamiliar name, but the youngster can pitch.

Spitzbarth struck out two Cubs in Saturday's 9-3 loss. It was his third scoreless inning of the spring for the Dodgers, who discovered the right-hander at Division II Molloy College in New York. They signed him as a free agent after the 2015 Draft, when 1,215 names were called, but no team uttered Spitzbarth's name.

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MESA, Ariz. -- Shea Spitzbarth may be an unfamiliar name, but the youngster can pitch.

Spitzbarth struck out two Cubs in Saturday's 9-3 loss. It was his third scoreless inning of the spring for the Dodgers, who discovered the right-hander at Division II Molloy College in New York. They signed him as a free agent after the 2015 Draft, when 1,215 names were called, but no team uttered Spitzbarth's name.

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Twenty-nine teams might have regrets. Spitzbarth is in only his third professional season, he wasn't invited to Major League camp and he dons borrowed jerseys with numbers in the 80s and 90s, but he's pitching like he belongs.

"I'm just learning about him too," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who had never heard of Spitzbarth until last month. "I like how he comes right at you, just so aggressive, no fear. Obviously, good stuff, but sometimes guys think their way into negative things. Then other guys just want an opportunity to open some eyes."

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Spitzbarth throws over the top, with a rising fastball reaching the mid-90s mph and a tight curveball. He's only 22, 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, and he projects as a late-inning reliever.

"I like the pressure," he said.

Spitzbarth was a dominator at his Staten Island high school, but short seasons in cold weather left him undrafted in 2012 and a couple poor grades left him ineligible for Division I universities. He wanted to stay near home for college, so he chose Molloy (student population, 4,500), but the questionable competition level again left him undrafted in 2015.

Knowing he needed to prove himself against better opponents, he played in the Cape Cod League. Dodgers scout Rich DeLucia, a Major League pitcher through the 1990s, signed Spitzbarth in September of his junior year.

"I really thought I'd get drafted," Spitzbarth said, still disappointed. "I threw for the Dodgers pre-Draft and I thought I threw good, maybe 90 or 91 [mph]. I had three workouts in four days, but I'm not going to turn them down where I came from. After the Draft, the Dodgers made me an offer -- the first team that did -- and I wasn't going to say no.

"I definitely was off the radar. But me and my dad talk about it a lot, everything worked out for a reason. If I'm here today, that's a good sign. It's surprising, but if the Dodgers trust me, that's what matters."

At two levels of Rookie ball in 2015, he had a 2.75 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 14 walks in 19 2/3 combined innings. Last year at three levels, he had a 2.72 ERA with 60 strikeouts and 12 walks in 39 2/3 innings.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers