According to GM Neal Huntington, the Pirates would have signed second-round pick Tanner Scheppers if the money would have been right.
Scheppers, a right-handed pitcher, sustained a shoulder injury last spring while pitching for Fresno State. Surgery was not necessary, but Scheppers was not at full strength — “75 to 80 percent,” in Huntington’s estimation — when he worked out last week at PNC Park. Scheppers threw about 30 pitches in the bullpen and could not manage a breaking ball.
The Pirates do not doubt Scheppers will return to full strength and can be an effective pitcher. But they refused to pay top-10 bonus money — Scheppers reportedly was asking for about $2 million-plus — for a guy with an iffy shoulder who was drafted 48th overall.
“He’s not hurt, but he’s not healthy,” Huntington said. “That made it impossible to come to a conclusion.”
Scheppers’ agent, Greg Genske, did not return repeated phone calls from the Tribune-Review over the past two months. This morning, however, he sent me this message via e-mail: “In the weeks leading up to the draft, Tanner Scheppers was the most highly evaluated pitcher in the draft — he was going to be the first pitcher selected. Due to an incredibly heavy work load, Tanner developed a shoulder injury. Fortunately, the esteemed Dr. Lewis Yocum determined that the injury did not require surgery and that Tanner would return to full strength with rest and rehabilitation.
“Tanner has responded extremely well to treatment and his shoulder is stronger than ever. He has been engaged in a throwing program for months and he is at full strength. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Tanner and he cooperated fully with all of their requests for information and examination. The Pirates never expressed a concern about Tanner’s health or his throwing program until the issue of money was addressed. “Tanner rejected the Pirates offers and therefore did not sign prior to the Aug. 15 deadline. Tanner is now looking forward to beginning his professional career elsewhere, confident that which organization eventually employs him will be getting one of the great young pitching prospects in the game.”
After the draft, Scheppers burned his bridges with Fresno State. It sounds like he’ll try to latch on with an independent league team and re-enter the draft in 2009.
Lineups for today’s game against the Mets:
PIRATES — McLouth CF, Wilson SS, F. Sanchez 2B, Adam LaRoche 1B, Andy LaRoche 3B, Moss LF, Michaels RF, Chavez C, Karstens (2-1, 1.23) RHP