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Great Scott! Sox reliever reborn as specialist

Longtime Minor Leaguer transforms into situational savant thanks to dropdown delivery
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- From a fringe player at Florida State to an undrafted prospect to an effective yet unspectacular Minor League player, Robby Scott was a left-handed pitcher who not even die-hard baseball fans had heard of a few months ago.

In fact, a lot of fans outside of Boston probably still don't know who he is. But left-handed hitters around the game are becoming well aware of Scott. This is because he is carving them up.

BOSTON -- From a fringe player at Florida State to an undrafted prospect to an effective yet unspectacular Minor League player, Robby Scott was a left-handed pitcher who not even die-hard baseball fans had heard of a few months ago.

In fact, a lot of fans outside of Boston probably still don't know who he is. But left-handed hitters around the game are becoming well aware of Scott. This is because he is carving them up.

Scott's path from relative obscurity to wipeout lefty specialist for the Red Sox is one of the best -- if unheralded -- stories in the game so far this season.

Scott, who turns 28 in August, is finally experiencing his first extended taste of life in the Majors after winning one of the final spots on the roster in Spring Training. He was a September callup last season and didn't allow a run in seven outings.

Perceived as the third lefty on the roster behind Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad when this season started, Scott has jumped to the front of the line.

Since he got that roster spot, Scott has clamped on to it like a prized possession after so many years of waiting.

"That's what the game of baseball is all about is opportunity, and fortunately I was in the right spot at the right time," said Scott.

When Red Sox manager John Farrell sees left-handed-hitting sluggers like Kyle Schwarber or Robinson Cano or Chris Davis coming up in the seventh or eighth inning, there's no doubt as to whom he calling for in the bullpen.

"Yeah, that's what you're there for as a competitor," said Scott. "You live for those opportunities, those nights where you're out there 1-on-1 with whoever it may be."

***

The traditional and nuanced numbers demonstrate how dominant Scott has been this season. In 23 games, Scott has a 1.42 ERA and a .122 opponents batting average. In 12 1/3 innings, he has three walks and 12 strikeouts. Lefties hardly stand a chance against him, going 2-for-24 with eight strikeouts. Only three of 19 inherited runners have scored on Scott's watch.

Now for the deeper numbers. According to Statcast™, lefty batters are averaging a 72.7-mph average exit velocity on 17 balls in play. That's the lowest average exit velocity against any MLB pitcher this season who has induced at least 10 batted balls from lefty hitters.

Though his success comes from the pinpoint command of his fastball, Scott's curve is his out pitch against lefties, who are 1-for-12 against it, and they've whiffed on 12 of their 29 swings.

""He can throw from multiple slots. His fastball has a lot of movement on it," said Red Sox assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister. "Obviously, it's an uncomfortable at-bat for a hitter. I think he's leveraged all those things and gotten the most out of it."

Scott was once the one who was uncomfortable because he didn't know where his future was headed.

At Florida State, he took the ball just eight times in 2010 and 16 more (9 1/3 innings) in his senior year of '11, posting a 4.82 ERA.

"I learned a lot about the game of baseball in general in my two years there," said Scott. "Unfortunately, I was learning a lot about the game because I watched a lot of baseball. I wasn't involved in much on the field."

Once college was over and he didn't get drafted, Scott waited for a couple of weeks -- and even taught some physical education.

"I had to start thinking about what else I was going to do," said Scott. "I was teaching summer school at my high school, teaching physical education, school, with my phone in my pocket, just waiting for it to start ringing. I never gave up on the dream. I was still working out every day, still getting after it, just hoping and waiting for a phone call."

The phone rang not long after that, and the Yuma Scorpions -- an independent league team -- came calling. Scott would pitch just seven games there before the Red Sox purchased his contract on Aug. 9, 2011.

***

Pitching parts of six Minor League seasons for five different Boston affiliates, Scott had a 2.75 ERA in 314 innings. As it turns out, his biggest breakthrough came after the 2014 season, when he pitched for the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League.

"One of the pitching coaches out there [Andrew Lorraine], he was in the Seattle Mariners organization, he had asked me, 'Have you ever thought about dropping down before?' I said, 'No, I never did,'" said Scott. "He was like, 'I'll talk to your pitching coordinator, I'll call your pitching coordinator tomorrow.'"

Ralph Treuel, the longtime pitching coordinator for the Red Sox, had actually been planning a trip to see Scott and the club's other AFL prospects a couple of days later. At that point, he discussed the dropdown approach with Scott, and the key to his ultimate emergence was in progress. Scott perfected the dropdown deliveries with Triple-A Pawtucket pitching coach Bob Kipper in 2015-16.

"It wasn't an easy process, that's for sure," said Scott. "It wasn't like an overnight thing, where I just rolled out of bed and started dropping down. There were a lot of bumps and bruises that went along with it. It's persistence, it's dedication, it's hard work."

The lesson in perseverance is inspiring to the Red Sox.

"His path is a unique one," said Farrell. "When you see a guy that has made a pretty dramatic adjustment to drop down and throw side arm, he's getting some of the best left-handed hitters out in baseball. Whether it's Cano or Davis, these are big power-type guys, and he's able to neutralize them to a certain extent.

"And the fact, even from the side arm slot he's throwing from, he's throwing high-80s velocity and that's not typically seen. You get the sinking action, the velocity and the sweeping type of breaking ball. It's great to see a guy that's non-drafted, independent league take that path and really blossom at this level."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox