Wyandotte’s John Schreiber on ‘amazing’ run for Tigers affiliate

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
John Schreiber

They are numbers you might expect from a whiz-bang, first-round draft pick and newly sanctioned millionaire.

Eighteen consecutive games without allowing a run. Twenty-four total appearances, with an ERA of 0.58, a WHIP of 0.63, all part of allowing a scant 21 hits in 46.1 innings, with seven unintentional walks, and 62 strikeouts.

And this man was a 15th-round pick in 2016 from that bastion of baseball elitism, the University of Northwestern Ohio, who signed for all of $6,000.

The Tigers don’t believe it, either.

“It’s amazing, really,” said Mike Rabelo, the Single A West Michigan manager who has watched Wyandotte native John Schreiber shut down one team after another, often over multiple innings, as the first-place Whitecaps get ready for the Midwest League playoffs.

Schreiber has not allowed a run since June 18, which means he’s still working on a summer shutout.

This was not exactly foreseen.

He played at Gibraltar Carlson High, then pitched at Henry Ford Community College before heading for Northwestern Ohio. Tigers scouts had seen him throw during a summer league in Alaska then tracked him in the spring of 2016 after he returned to a campus located in Lima, Ohio.

They then invited him to a 2016 pre-draft workout at Comerica Park. He had size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and a right arm that worked from a lower three-quarter angle, which made a sinker-slider-change combination that much tougher on hitters.

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Schreiber had a 2.76 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 18 games last year at Single A Connecticut but, because of an overload of relievers at West Michigan, he worked at extended spring training in Lakeland, Fla., until room cleared in late May at West Michigan.

“Obviously, those numbers are out of sight,” said Dave Littlefield, the Tigers’ vice president for player development who hasn’t been in any rush to promote Schreiber, even if Schreiber is long in the tooth, 23 years old, for low Single A.

“But we’ve moved a lot of players and particularly a lot of relievers this year, and it was one of those situations where West Michigan was heading for the playoffs. And while we could move (promote) him, we just decided, let’s hold him here for now, and get him some more experience.”

In keeping with the rest of his story, Schreiber’s repertoire is different. He throws from a basement-dwelling, three-quarter slot, although, as Rabelo explains, Schreiber is not a true, drop-down, submarine pitcher who risks scraping knuckles as he delivers pitches.

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In a Friday night victory over Bowling Green, the skipper got another taste of what has made a reliever fairly phenomenal: Three innings, no runs, one hit, no walks, two strikeouts. He threw all of 34 pitches.

“The number one thing is he gets left-handers out,” Rabelo said. “Earlier in the season when he got here, I’d say, aw, I don’t know if I wanna bring him in now – two left-handed batters are coming up.

“But now, it’s to the point where I don’t care who’s batting. He’ll throw a slider to a right-hander, then a back-door slider that complements his change-up that puts a little more doubt into left-hand hitters. Usually, left-hand batters are the nemesis for drop-down guys. Left-handers see the ball so well.

“But he’s getting everyone out. He is an automatic save.”

Schreiber’s fastball tops at 93, Rabelo said, and he “pitches comfortably” at 90-91, “with that nice little sink action.”

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e also has made huge progress from a year ago in delivery time to home plate. Schreiber was closer to 1.5 seconds during his Connecticut debut, which is all but escorting a runner at first base to scoring position.

“Now, he has a quick little move,” Rabelo said. “He does a lot of little things that are advantageous.”

Jeff Kunkel, a one-time, big-league shortstop (Texas, Cubs) and Tigers bullpen coach, now is a Tigers scout who bird-dogged Kunkel at Northwestern Ohio.

“We were looking for something different,” Kunkel said. “He was a big-bodied guy who looks the part, and he was coming from a different angle with those pitches. He was a guy we wanted to give a shot. We liked him at the Comerica Park workout. And David Chadd (Tigers assistant general manager) really liked what he saw.”

What can’t be forecasted, of course, is whether Schreiber’s arsenal will work at higher minor-league levels. Pitchers of this nature live on something of an edge. Hitters as they ascend get better and smarter.

Littlefield and Rabelo are careful about projections. All because they know professional baseball’s realities and the way life can change for prospects migrating through the farm system’s terrain.

“You know, that I can’t say,” Rabelo said when asked how Schreiber’s methods might play at more sophisticated stops. “But I can’t say that for sure about anyone. The hitters will tell us that, in time.

“But the job he has done has exceeded any expectations. “He literally comes in and fills up the strike zone.

“We are what we are (first place) because of what he’s done.”

Twitter @Lynn_Henning