Area minor-leaguer switches from Cubs to Rockies

News-DemocratJanuary 29, 2014 

Garrett Schlecht has changed organizations and positions in the hopes of lighting a fire under his young professional baseball career.

The Waterloo High School graduate and former Belleville West pitcher and outfielder asked the Chicago Cubs for his release earlier this month, then worked out for several teams before signing with the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday as a left-handed pitcher.

"It's a great opportunity, I'm excited to get out there and show them what I can do," said the 20-year-old Schlecht, who reports to the Rockies' baseball complex in Scottsdale, Ariz. on Feb. 28. "I want to prove to everybody that I'm a pitcher now and have the ability to be a major league player as a pitcher.

"I don't know if it's maturity or what, but I feel like I'm more confident than I've ever felt before. I haven't thrown a whole lot, so I have a fresh arm ready to go."

After gaining his release, Schlecht's agent Jason Wood set up tryouts on an individual and group basis in Kansas City, Mo., in front of five teams. Several teams were interested after watching Schlecht throw and the Rockies made the best offer.

"He had other offers, too. It wasn't an easy decision," Wood said. "It turned out the Rockies offer was good and he liked what they had to say as far as his development goes.

"One of the strengths in the Cubs organization, to their credit, is they've done a nice job of drafting and developing outfielders. (Garrett) wasn't getting the at-bats and we contacted the Cubs and requested his release and got it."

A ninth-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2011 after helping lead Waterloo to the Class 3A state tournament, Schlecht never advanced out of rookie ball.

He hit .224 in 73 games with the Cubs' Arizona League team from 2011 to 2013 with six doubles, three triples, one home run and 24 RBIs with a .335 on-base percentage.

In 29 games last summer, Schlecht hit .176 with two triples and six RBIs. He hit .252 in 2012 with six doubles, one homer and 16 RBIs in 35 games.

"The Cubs had such depth at the outfield position with their international signings and the draft, so he just wasn't getting the repetitions," Wood said. "They were extremely amicable and extremely friendly, it was just the simple fact that he didn't fit into their plans -- and that happens sometimes."

Schlecht grew up pitching and playing the outfield, but hasn't pitched since his senior year at Waterloo. He was 6-2 that spring with a 3.56 ERA, but also struck out 67 and walked 24 in 37 1/3 innings.

Schlecht has been throwing on a regular basis at the St. Louis Pirates travel team training facility.

While Schlecht hasn't ruled out playing the outfield, something Wood said the Rockies may still be interested in as well, he plans on giving pitching his best shot.

"I wasn't like completely giving up on my hitting, I was trying to see if any teams wanted me as a hitter, too," Schlecht said. "They just liked me a lot more as a pitcher. I stuck out as a lefty pitcher."

Schlecht looks at the change of teams as a great opportunity.

"It wasn't frustrating at all, I just felt like I had a better opportunity with a different team," he said. "It wasn't too tough as far as the business part, but the part of not being able to see my teammates that I've been good friends with, that will be the harder part of the two."

Schlecht has been pitching for most of his life, so this isn't a major change.

"My arm feels good and my body feels good," he said. "Once I get the routine down I should be OK."

Wood admitted that a position change in the minor leagues is a bit unusual.

"It is, but we're not really sure how he's going to be utilized," Wood said. "In my opinion, pitching is probably what's going to carry him. They may give him an opportunity to hit and if he can't, then they've definitely got somebody that can throw as well."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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