A city that has won 37 major sports championships including 5 Super Bowl wins, 17 NBA titles, and 8 World Series victories, Boston knows a thing or two about winning. That is why a player like Chandler Shepherd who just loves to compete and aims to win first and foremost will blend right into this sports powerhouse of a city when his number is called. The Boston Red Sox’s 21st ranked pitching prospect out of Kentucky is well on his way to the big leagues, a player Red Sox fans will get to now much sooner rather than later.
“I think you get a very hard working pitcher that brings it whether it be as a starting pitcher or a relief pitcher, brings a versatile aspect to the game,” said Shepherd.
The four-pitch starter relies on his versatility, something that he has been forced to become more reliant on as of late. With a career 3.42 era in 224 minor league innings primarily out of the bullpen to go along with 227 strikeouts over that span, Shepherd has overwhelmed hitters, to say the least thus far in his career.
Going into the 2018 season the hard-throwing right-hander will be making the switch to the rotation, something the organization announced going into the off-season. Pitching in the rotation is something Shepherd has not done since before he was drafted in 2014, a role he is excited to get back to.
“At the end of the day, I just want to pitch whether it is in the bullpen or as a starting pitcher. Whatever way I can help the club out is the route I want to take,” Shepherd explained. With only 5 rotation spots in the big leagues the path to Boston may seem to have just gotten harder, something Shepherd doesn’t mind. “I think it really comes down to just pitching, regardless if you are a starter or a reliever. If you have some success and they think you can help the big league club out then your number will get called.”
The Red Sox are planning to use Chandler Shepherd as a starter. Is that the smart plan? https://t.co/XXtYWnIVcT
— OverTheMonster (@OverTheMonster) February 20, 2018
Despite the switch to the rotation, the mindset stays the same for the 25-year-old on the mound. He compares the game and each at-bat to a chess match knowing very well he has to stay on the attack. He explained though that as much as he wants to keep his mentality the same, learning to manage the game and make it through a lineup multiple times is something that will take time. Fortunately for Shepherd, he credits the players and staff around him for making the transition and learning process a smooth one.
Luckily for Shepherd arguably the best player to have gone from the bullpen to the rotation seamlessly in recent history is Chris Sale, the Red Sox’s ace. After working out of the bullpen primarily for the first two seasons of his career, Sale has made the all-star team and received CY Young consideration in 6 straight seasons since the switch. “He had great stuff to share with me and kind of move me along in the right direction, always there to help out,” Shepherd explained.
Added to the 40-man roster of the Red Sox’s near the end of the 2017 season, it looks as though his time in the minor leagues in 2018 may be short-lived. Despite the rapid success in the minors and his career thus far Shepherd understands how long the journey has been and how many people have helped support him along the way. From early on he mentioned that he fell in love with the game and all that it meant, including what it meant to his family. The Louisa native recalls growing up and throwing the ball around with his father and grandfather, having them drive him and support him at all of his games, memories that won’t soon be forgotten. The soon-to-be big leaguer credits them for getting him so close to his dream even going as far as to say that without them this dream wouldn’t have been able to become a reality.
At the end of the day for Shepherd, it is his home and the people that make it special that drives him. Whether it was coming back from elbow surgery in high school, making his way through the minor leagues, or just in need of a pick me up it is his home of a little more than 2,000 people that he knows is behind him.
With his dream so close to becoming a reality the Pawtucket Red Sox now starter Is working harder every day knowing that there are a lot of guys that can do exactly what he can, that it comes down to time and preparation to give him an edge on the competition.
Featured image courtesy of Instagram/@chandlershepherd14.