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Friday, October 31, 2014

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Jays’ reliever starts season on disabled list

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Michael Schwimer

If you’re a Major League ball player, the last place you want to be is on the disabled list.

Yet, as the season kicked off, that’s exactly where Blue Jays’ reliever Michael Schwimer found himself. While his teammates started the season with expectations of a playoff position in mind, if not a berth in the World Series, Schwimer found himself back in Florida, rehabbing, building up strength and slowly getting some pitches in.

Schwimer missed the opening two weeks of the season with a shoulder injury; that was the bad news. The good news is that it isn’t the same injury that plagued him last year as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. That was a biceps injury, but when he spoke to The CJN on the telephone from Florida, he proclaimed himself healed and raring to go.

“Right now, I’m getting better every day,” he said. “There’s no real timetable. I’m healthy, with no pain in my arm.

“I need to build up my arm strength. I’m hopeful to be out of here shortly, but I don’t know.”

“Every day is better than the next. It shouldn’t be long.”

Schwimer is one of the new crop of players management hopes turns the team into a contender. He was acquired during spring training from the Philadelphia Phillies for minor-league player Art Charles. A right-handed reliever, Schwimer stands six-foot-eight and weights 246 pounds. According to NBC Sports, “Schwimer was given away to the Blue Jays because he threatened a grievance over how the Phillies handled an injury last year.”

Playing in his rookie season with the Phillies last year, the Virginia-born athlete came out of the bullpen 47 times and fashioned a 2-1 record with a 4.46 ERA. He threw strikes with regularity. In 34.1 innings he fanned 36.

For Schwimer, the Phillies was the only Major League organization he knew, but “going to a new organization was exciting.” His experience with the Blue Jays has been positive. “It’s a good team, a good clubhouse,” he said.

And like a lot of pre-season prognosticators, Schwimer feels management has put together a team for whom the sky is the limit. “You can see what the Blue Jays are doing brilliantly, not just make the team into a playoff contender, but a World Series team,” he said.

With that attitude, Schwimer is not worried about the team’s slow start. From the time he spoke to The CJN to the time this story appears in print, the team made strides. At press time, The Blue Jays were only 2.5 games back of Boston in the American League East.

For the worrywarts among us, Schwimer said that there are 162 games in the season. “The slow start, that’s for people and fans to get worried about. Among the players, I assume, there’s no worry, no panic. Every loss, the fans and media tend to freak out. As a player… you don’t press the panic button.”

As for his role on the team, management indicated they expect him to come in as a late inning reliever. “But, I’ll have to prove it,” he said.

When he does finally get to Toronto, Schwimer hopes to add one other element to his role as a Blue Jay. It was something he had hoped to do in Philly, but it just didn’t work out. He had approached Jewish organizations, indicating he was available to speak to young people and “help out in any way I can. I love speaking to kids and sharing my experiences and helping them get on the right path.”

A native of Fairfax, Va., Schwimer attended weekly Hebrew school and had a bar mitzvah. An all-round athlete who won all sorts of accolades for baseball, he was also an all-star high school basketball player.

He has great memories of competing in the JCC Maccabi Games, an event that attracts top high school aged players from Canada, the United States, Israel and other nations.

He participated in three of the summer games, winning two gold medals in basketball.

“It was an absolute blast,” he recalled. “We had so much fun.”

 In his senior year in high school, he averaged 21 points, eight rebounds, and six assists per game. He was such an accomplished athlete, he was offered Division 1 scholarships to play football, basketball, and baseball. Duke and Louisville  offered him full basketball scholarships.

Instead he chose baseball and was drafted in the 14th round in 2008 by the Phillies. He toiled in the minor leagues until 2011, when he made his Major League debut.

When it comes to pitching, he can’t be pigeonholed. “No one pitches like me,” he said. “I have an unorthodox, unique motion that helps me hide the ball better. I have better deception and create better angles so I can drive the ball downhill.”

His best pitches are the fastball, change up, sinker and slider.

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