Down on the Farm: Outfielder turned pitcher makes successful River Cats debut


Some people like to brag. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad. The Sacramento River Cats' latest bullpen arm has plenty of reasons to be one of those people on the good side.

Jordan Schafer is a six-year MLB veteran. The Braves' third-round draft pick in 2005 is beyond athletic. His bat was always second to his glove as Schafer used his speed to cover ground in center and he even stole 30 bases -- he swiped 103 bases in the bigs -- in 2014 with the Braves and Twins. 

With his bat lagging, Schafer is a .228 career hitter, he presented himself to teams in 2016 as the ultimate weapon. Schafer, like the super normal freaky athlete he is, turned to pitching while not fully giving up being a position player. He could pinch run, pinch hit, play the outfield and come out of the bullpen. 

The Dodgers took a chance on Schafer and signed him to a minor-league contract. Between three levels -- Rookie Ball, Double-A and Triple-A -- Schafer struggled at the plate with a .222 batting average. As a pitcher, he looked like this could be more than an experiment. Schafer totaled 49.1 innings, went 1-1 with a 3.83 ERA and struck out 59 batters. 

After the 2016 season, Schafer signed a minor-league deal with the Cardinals. But, his left arm was not agreeing with the new pitcher. Schafer suffered an elbow injury in spring training and thought he would need Tommy John surgery. In a sigh of relief, he underwent an alternative surgery and hit .350 in 13 minor league games, but did not toe the rubber. 

Now in the Giants' farm system, Schafer is taking his second crack as a pitcher. San Francisco signed the lefty on April 3 to a minor-league deal and assigned him to Sacramento on Thursday. Schafer debuted that same night for the River Cats and it could not have gone any better. 

Entering the game in the bottom of the seventh inning to replace Josh Osich, Schafer pitched one scoreless inning while allowing one hit and striking out two. 

You may forget, but Giants fans should already know Schafer's name. Remember when Gregor Blanco saved Matt Cain's perfect game in 2012? Do you know who was batting to lead off the seventh inning? That would be Schafer. The next time you see him and Blanco on the same field, it could be with Blanco in the outfield again, but Schafer on the bump and the retired Cain watching the game on TV. 

Some people deserve to brag. Jordan Schafer is one of them.

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