After spending 14 seasons bouncing around between the minor leagues and independent ball, left-handed pitcher Scott Rice finally caught on with the Mets in 2013, making him a 31-year-old rookie at baseball’s highest stage.
Originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the first round of the 1999 first-year player’s draft, Rice pitched throughout the Orioles’ system through 2006, advancing as high as Triple-A.
Rice spent time in the Texas Rangers organization for the 2007 season, but was plagued with injuries, appearing in only eight games before undergoing surgery on his flexor tendon in 2008.
The lefty appeared in indie ball in 2008-09 as well as 2011 with the Long Island Ducks, Newark Bears and York Revolution, respectively and spent time with the Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations before being signed by the Mets and eventually making the big league squad out of Spring Training in 2013.
I had the pleasure to talk with Scott and catch up with the former Met about his time with the Mets and what he is up to these days.
Rob: Hey, Scott! Thanks so much for taking the time out to talk to me today!
So, you were in professional baseball for 14 years before you finally broke into the majors in 2013 with the Mets. Was there ever a time where you wanted to hang up the cleats, or did you always keep the faith and recognize that you had what it took to make the majors?
Scott: There was never really a time where I wanted to call it quits. I always just stuck to my game and told myself that I would be ready when the opportunity to pitch in the majors presented itself.
Rob: Give me a rundown of what it was like to make that 2013 team out of Spring Training.
Scott: You know, it was really surreal. I was told, “you have a shot to make this team. If you pitch well, you will make it.” Even so, I expected to start the season at Triple-A, but I survived the number crunch even though I wasn’t on the [40-man] roster.
Terry Collins then started to use me earlier on in games and I felt strong pitching so I was confident I could make it. The last day, Dan Warthen tapped me on the shoulder and told me that Terry wanted to see me in his office, which has happened many times before, but this time it was different because Dan had a big smile on his face.
Rob: That season, you ended up pitching in 73 games as the lefty specialist out of the bullpen for the Mets, which earned you the nickname Scott “Every Minute” Rice by announcer Gary Cohen.
How did you prepare yourself for pitching that frequently? What was it like being thrown right into the fire like that in your first big league season?
Scott: Really, it was a dream come true. I was thrust into a role that every reliever wants. I knew I couldn’t lead the league in saves, but I could in appearances. It was also not as big of an adjustment doing it at the major league level because I had faced all of these guys before in the minors. The only thing that was different was doing it in a bigger stadium.
I’ve always had a hard work ethic that was instilled in me when I was young. When I was in the minors and began as a starter, I couldn’t stand not pitching on my four off days between starts. When I became a relief pitcher, I had appeared in a lot of games, so it wasn’t any different doing it at the major league level. I always just tried to make my mark and go out there and perform.
Rob: Since you were technically a rookie even though you had been in baseball for such a long time, were you treated as such? Additionally, did you feel like a rookie even though you had been around the game for so long?
Scott: Yes and no. It was a delicate situation. LaTroy [Hawkins] definitely made it a mission to incorporate some rookie hazing, but I just went into [the season] like anything else and tried to stay on my grind.
Rob: Last season, you pitched for the York Revolution of the Atlantic League, where you had also pitched in 2011. Will you be playing for them again in 2017? If not, what does this upcoming season have in store for you?
Scott: I started off last season with Arizona, but was let go in May. The team didn’t do as well as they expected to and they told me they wanted to give the younger guys a chance to gain experience.
My age definitely caught up to me in Arizona and I had a blip in the radar health wise and at my age, you can’t really afford to experience any issues. So I finished the season off with York, but I don’t plan on pitching for them again this season. I’ve been staying in shape and have been in contact with a few teams. You never know what can happen, especially if a team experiences a few injuries.
Rob: I know you have influenced Steven Matz with his move to first base, which he has utilized this spring. As a fellow lefty, what do you notice about Matz’s game and how he can thrive in the bigs?
Scott: I love Matz, I think he is one of the fiercest competitors in the game. He always came in with his head down and a willingness to learn. He has really great stuff and a power fastball. When someone like Harvey came up, there was a lot of pressure surrounding him. I think that since the Mets have such a strong core with guys like deGrom and Syndergaard, Matz can settle into his role and get comfortable.
Rob: From an outside perspective, what are your thoughts on the Mets going into the 2017 season?
Scott: I think it’s really exciting. They made the important moves of re-signing Yoenis Cespedes and their relievers, they just have to stay away from injury. They have a lot of depth and all the starters have made huge adjustments to pitching in the majors and are easing into their roles.
Rob: What is the next step to get back to the majors? Do you still believe you can benefit a big league team in a relief capacity?
Scott: One-hundred percent. Here in Los Angeles, a lot of the Korean teams work out so I was able to pitch against them last month. I’ve added a cutter and my fastball is at about 92-93 MPH, so I definitely believe I can benefit a big league team still. However, I was talking to Josh Satin recently to float around ideas about life after baseball, but we will see what happens.
Rob: Scott, thank you so much for taking your time out! Best of luck and enjoy the nice weather in California!
Scott: You too! Enjoy the blizzard in New York.
Follow Scott on Twitter: @elArroz_56