Bootcheck Proving Doubters Wrong

Bootcheck has a 0.50 ERA in three starts so far

MOOSIC, PA – Chris Bootcheck admits what many people thought: he had serious doubts as to whether he would be playing baseball in 2013. He is, and now he's doing everything he can to make the most of the opportunity given to him.

The 34-year-old journeyman has found a comfort zone with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Reality has started to set in for Bootcheck, and he's trying to savior every moment because he knows his playing days are numbered.

"I think the older you get, the more you realize that when you hear the saying, ‘You're gonna be a former player longer than you're gonna be a player,' it's true," Bootcheck said. "For me, you cherish the moments you have in a clubhouse, in a uniform and when you're competing."

Bootcheck's already lived the dream that so many people can only wish for in playing Major League baseball. But his experiences in the past few seasons helped him to really appreciate how lucky he's been both on and off the field.

In 2010 Bootcheck decided to play in Japan and signed with the Yokohama BayStars. In 15 games he went 1-0 with a 4.62 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.

Bootcheck says it's one of those things in life that's hard to explain unless it's experienced firsthand. But he was able to take away many positives, not only as a player and teammate, but as a person, too.

"It really helped me understand what the foreign guys here [in the United States], whether they're Japanese, Korean, Dominican, you name it, they face challenges here that I was aware of but never really faced myself," Bootcheck said. "You're taken out of your comfort zone. Every little thing during the day away from the field is a challenge."

Last season Bootcheck signed a minor league deal with Detroit and spent the entire season with Triple-A Toledo. He appeared in 41 games, went 2-5 with a 4.06 ERA and recorded 53 strikeouts and 17 saves. He was also named to the International League All-Star team.

"I had a really good camp and carried it over into the year in the closing role," he said. "I had a good year, I gave them everything I had, but I didn't end the way I had hoped."

Bootcheck was referring to a season-ending shoulder injury in August that occurred while diving to make a catch on a bunt. Although it was to his non-throwing shoulder, it was enough to cast doubts as to whether another team would give Bootcheck a shot.

That's when New York decided to take a chance. The Yankees signed Bootcheck to a minor league on March 6 and told him they wanted him to be a starting pitcher. He had no doubt he could do that, as he prepared to be a starter in the offseason.

"The phone really wasn't ringing all that much," he recalled. "So when they asked me, I jumped right on it.

"I'm just trying to make them look good for bringing me aboard."

At this point it in the season Bootcheck is indeed making the Yankees look good for their decision. In three starts through April 25 Bootcheck is 2-0 with an International League-leading 0.50 ERA in 18 innings. He's only given up one run and has recorded 14 strikeouts.

Besides his success and helping his team on the field, Bootcheck is the kind of guy his teammates are thankful to have in the clubhouse.

"Chris is a good guy," RailRiders' pitcher Cody Eppley said. "He helps the young guys out, you know with the game or whatever it might be on and off the field. He knows a lot about baseball so he's a good brain to pick."

Although the obvious goal is to be successful, Bootcheck admits that he tries not to think about results, but rather work on becoming the best pitcher he can be. He still strives to make adjustments with his pitches because he believes hitters are always making adjustments of their own.

"You almost get in a mode where you feel like it's gonna help you survive," he said. "After you play this game for a couple years, guys understand what you're trying to do, so when you throw something new in the mix it may give you a couple more wins."

Bootcheck has also made it clear that he believes he can still play in the big leagues. There's a reason he's continued to play.

"I never wanted to be a guy that was just hanging on just to put a uniform on," he said. "I really set goals for myself. I wouldn't be here if I felt like I was gonna go out there and embarrass myself.

"If I didn't feel like I could compete at the big league level, I wouldn't be here," Bootcheck concluded.

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