Mac Sceroler’s first full year in professional baseball hasn’t exactly been smooth, but the way he sees it, that’s just part of the game.
“It’s been a pretty long year for me,” the former Denham Springs High and Southeastern Louisiana standout said.
Sceroler, who signed with the Cincinnati Reds last July 4th as a fifth-round draft pick, wrapped up his first season with the Billings (Montana) Mustangs, the team’s rookie league affiliate. He finished with an 0-4 record, 3.26 ERA in 12 appearances, with nine starts.
Sceroler was shut down after logging 38.2 innings, a move that was pre-planned by the club. That was followed by five weeks of no baseball activities, with no weightlifting, running, throwing or workouts.
“It was great,” Sceroler said of the time off. “Pretty much the whole year you’re doing something with baseball whether it’s mentally or physically. You’ve always got something going on. For those five or six weeks, it was kind of like a mental and physical off period for me. I didn’t think about baseball. I didn’t worry about it. I just kind of relaxed, enjoyed being home with my family and friends and all of that. It was pretty good.”
That enabled Sceroler to prepare for his first spring training experience with the Reds in Goodyear, Ariz.
“I had heard what it was like before I went in, but it’s nothing really like I’ve experienced before,” Sceroler said of spring training, in which his typical days included waking up at 6 a.m. and being at the training complex by 7.
“You’re on the field full-go by 8 o’clock doing drills,” he said. “Once you’re done with the practice aspect of it, then you’ve got a 9-inning game starting at 1 o’clock every day. Spring training is a grind. It will definitely put a wear on you.”
Sceroler said it’s all designed to get players ready for the season.
“As pitchers, you go into spring training, you’re not in tip-top condition, and everybody there knows that, so spring training is pretty much for all the pitchers and position players building up to being 100 percent by the time that you break with your team,” he said, pointing to time management and self-discipline as keys in spring training.
“It’s a lot of competition,” he said. “Guys get after it. There’s nothing really better than guys competing for a roster spot.”
Sceroler earned a roster spot with the Class A Dayton Dragons, where he went 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in four starts. During this time, Sceroler noticed something wasn’t right physically.
“My second start, my back and side kind of started bothering me, so we started getting some treatment,” he said. “I tried to pitch through it my third and fourth start, but I just wasn’t the same.”
“I was telling them for my last two starts that something was wrong with my back,” Sceroler said. “I know myself well enough to know something was wrong. They all just kind of thought that it was a tight muscle and that it would go away. Every day, it kept getting worse and worse. Finally the head trainer flew to Dayton, and while he was there, I got him to check me out.”
The diagnosis for Sceroler was a strained oblique, which meant a trip to the 7-day disabled list on April 28 and a trip back to Goodyear to the Reds’ training facility which led to roughly a seven-week stay.
“I wasn’t happy,” Sceroler said. “Nobody likes leaving their team. Once you leave, you lose your spot on the roster, and then you’ve got to go to rehab, and then you’ve got to work your way back up and hopefully wait for a spot to open up in the spot that you did have.”
Sceroler said the first three weeks of rehab were limited to drills to strengthen his abs, back and obliques. It was also the first time in his career that an injury sidelined him for an extended period of time.
“All through high school, I had some small injuries, but nothing to really take me out of the game for a while,” he said. “All through college I was healthy, so this is the first time where I’ve actually had to sit out of the game for a couple of months. It’s all part of the game, you know.”
The return trip to Goodyear also put Sceroler in Arizona at a time when things were starting to heat up – and heat there isn’t exactly the same as in Louisiana.
“Spring training weather was good,” he said. “I was there in rehab at the worst time. It will get up to 120 degrees. It’s just so hot. It’s brutal.
“It’s no humidity. You would think that no humidity it wouldn’t be as bad, but it’s not. It’s so much worse than the heat back home because it’s so dry.”
Sceroler said he’s maintained a positive outlook in what has been an arduous process.
“It just makes me work harder, honestly,” he said. “Any time you’re pulled away from the game for a reason that you can’t really control, it motivates you to not let it happen again. Ever since I’ve gone down with the injury, I’ve been working hard trying to get back to where I was in even better shape than I was in before.”
He said the timing of the injury was “a blessing in disguise.”
“You hate see it happen, obviously, but it can also be like a mental check and a physical check – an eye-opening thing that I have to keep working hard to maintain good health and stay in good shape just so you can prevent yourself from being injured in the future,” Sceroler said. “Thankfully it happened to me early in my career, so I can learn from it.”
Sceroler was assigned to Billings on June 14, where he’s gone 1-2 with a 3.72 ERA in five starts, while working to build his arm strength and endurance. He’s hopeful of being back in Dayton after giving up five hits, three runs, two walks with four strikeouts in a no-decision against Helena on July 7 – a start in which he was limited to 75 pitches or five innings.
He followed that with five innings of three-hit ball with eight strikeouts to get the win in a 6-5 victory over the Grand Junction Rockies on July 13.
“I’ve kind of just been controlling what I can control,” he said. “I can’t really control any of that, and I can only control how I pitch. I’ve been feeling the best that I’ve felt since I’ve been drafted, just from how my arm feels.
"My velocity’s back up," he said."Everything’s looking good. I've just got to find my way back to Dayton and continue working from there. I’m healthy now, feeling good, so I’ve just got to see where the rest of the season leads me.”