Schoeneweis relishes fresh start
Veteran lefty reliever welcomes low-profile role with D-backs
TUCSON, Ariz. -- No matter what the D-backs accomplish in 2009, lefty reliever Scott Schoeneweis will be able to breathe a little easier, and it's not because the air is cleaner in the desert than it is in the Big Apple.
Schoeneweis, 35 and a 10-year veteran, has seen a lot in his career -- including a World Series championship with the Angels in 2002 -- but nothing quite compared to the daily media barrage he received as a member of the New York Mets in 2007-08.
"Take a look at the clock," Schoeneweis said on Saturday, as a reporter sidled up to his locker at 11:15 a.m. MST in a serene Tucson Electric Park clubhouse. "Even in Spring Training, by now I'd have 15 guys in my face asking me all kinds of questions, and it's like that every single day, all year."
Schoeneweis says he always managed to get along with the media on a personal level because he was able to joke around and not take everything too seriously. But when the Mets collapsed the past two Septembers and missed the playoffs, the New York papers weren't afraid to let the team -- and Schoeneweis -- have it.
Despite what appear to be solid numbers last year -- Schoeneweis put up a 3.32 ERA in 73 games and gave up 55 hits in 56 2/3 innings -- he knows he'll be most remembered for one thing.
"I gave up a homer to [Florida Marlins utilityman] Wes Helms in a 2-2 tie on the last game of the season, and we went on to lose the game," Schoeneweis says. "It was a solo homer. It wasn't like I had a four-run lead and gave up a grand slam.
"And I had pitched pretty well in four or five outings earlier that week. But that's not what gets remembered. What gets remembered is that I blew it and the bullpen blew it, but the fact of the matter is that the team lost.
"Guys didn't get hits in key situations. Other mistakes were made. I mean, did we as a bullpen contribute to what happened? Of course. But was it all our fault? No."
Schoeneweis actually was even better than he remembers. He was not scored upon in 10 of his final 13 outings, 36 of his final 45 outings and 58 of his 72 overall appearances in 2008.
Now, Schoeneweis finds himself in what could turn out to be a great situation.
He's got a solid specialist spot in a promising bullpen on a winning team, and he got to move back to the city where he's been living in the offseason since he broke into the Majors with the Angels in 1999.
A 10-game winner as a starter for the Angels in 2001, Schoeneweis was replaced by John Lackey in the rotation the following year. Hesitant at first to embrace the role, he grew into it quickly and became a force as the club's only lefty out of the bullpen. The Halos stormed through the postseason in 2002, upending the San Francisco Giants in a stirring seven-game World Series.
Since then, apart from 19 starts with the Chicago White Sox in 2004, Schoeneweis has been a full-time reliever with the main purpose of getting left-handed hitters out in crucial stages of games.
He's pretty good at it, too.
Lefties hit .178 against Schoeneweis last year (18-for-101), ranking seventh among all Major League relievers and second among southpaws, and he tied for seventh in the National League among left-handers with 15 holds.
With the D-backs, he says he has settled into a role he's not accustomed to: a leader and mentor for the young arms of Arizona's relief corps.
"It's a lot of fun being able to be one of those guys," says Schoeneweis, a Duke University graduate who might have earned a masters degree in self-deprecation if he hadn't headed straight for pro ball after college.
"I really enjoy offering my advice and I do it as much as I can. Of course, I have to tell these guys that all I really have is information. It's kind of one of those if-you-can't-do, teach situations.
"In other words, I know what it is that needs to be done. I just don't do it all the time."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.