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Shortall biding his time for an outfield spot

June 26, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
There's a log-jam in the Williamsport outfield, something Matt Shortall knows very well.

The recent 10th-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies is struggling to find playing time in that log-jam in the outfield. It's not that he's frustrated with the situation. He understands his place in that log-jam.

His opportunities have been minimal in his first week or so with the Crosscutters, but he's taken advantage of each one. As a player who had a better than .330 career batting average at both Tulane and Texas-Arlington, his goal is pretty simple. He wants to take his chances to play and make things happen, thereby forcing the hand of manager Shawn Williams to get him into the lineup on a regular basis.

But for now, Shortall is stuck in a rotation which includes 2013 third-round draft pick Cord Sandberg, 2014 third-round pick Aaron Brown, and hot-hitting Jiandido Tromp.

“There's certain at-bats where I know I try to do too much because I want to hit a home run so my name is in the lineup the next day,” Shortall said Thursday following batting practice. “But the only thing you can do is do what you can to help your team win every night. For me, I just try to get a hit and an RBI every night. If I can do that, then I can just let the cards fall where they may.”

There's some versatility to Shortall's game which could eventually lead to a positional change. But he was drafted by the Phillies as an outfielder some three weeks ago. It's a position he began playing on a regular basis at Texas-Arlington two years ago when he was told it would be his best chance to play pro baseball.

Shortall had originally gone to Tulane out of high school as a catcher and played there during his first two years of college, which included his transfer to Texas-Arlington. During some of his pre-draft workouts with MLB teams, he was asked to make some throws from behind the plate. Shortall said his pop time to second base was right around 2 seconds, a very good time for draft-eligible catchers.

He said there were a number of teams who told him if they decided to select him, they would pick him as a catcher. For now, though, the Phillies haven't approached him yet about making any kind of switch, but he said the versatility is nice to have regardless.

“I'm just one of those guys that's so happy to have this opportunity that if they tell you're hitting left-handed and throwing upside-down, I'll do it,” Shortall said. “So I'm ready for whenever they call me in the office and tell me to put the gear on and get behind the plate. I want to make myself the most valuable player I can.”

Shortall's appeared in four games since being assigned to Williamsport, and he's hit in all four. His .353 batting average is third-best on the team, behind only Sandberg's .358 mark, and Tromp's .357 average. Obviously, Shortall's sample size is much smaller as he's played in six fewer games than Tromp, and eight fewer than Sandberg.

But it's a sampling which shows Shortall is capable of being a productive professional player. He's hit in all four games he's played, including a 3 for 3 effort against Auburn last week. Two of his six hits have gone for extra bases.

It's what Shortall does best. In his last three years in college, he hit .275, .362 and .344 for the Blaze.

“They always say, if you can hit, you can find a spot. So as long as I keep hitting, they're going to find a place for me to play,” Shortall said. “I know it's a log-jam here in the outfield and that's how it is. It's a testament to a good organization that they have so many prospects in the outfield. So even a 10th-round pick like me might not get to play every day because there's too many good prospects.”

For now, Shortall is learning how to handle his new role and be prepared for any opportunity he does get.

“It's about having the same mindset every day,” he said. “This is a roller coaster ride. Don't ride the roller coaster, just keep yourself straight and work hard. And when you get the opportunity, keep moving yourself up.”


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