Shawn Nottingham: A Strikeout Machine

LHP Shawn Nottingham (Photo: Mariners)

As good as the Everett AquaSox rotation has been so far this season, nobody has been as dominant as LHP Shawn Nottingham. InsidethePark's Jamie Cobb chatted with the 2003 13th round draft pick to learn more about his hot start in the Northwest League.

No pitcher ever wants his fielder to drop a fly ball, that is unless he has struck out eight batters in a row. That was the dilemma facing Shawn Nottingham last Sunday during his second start for the Everett AquaSox.

After plunking the lead-off batter, the 6-foot lefty proceeded to fan each of the next eight batters the Spokane Indians sent to the plate. The streak ended when Tug Hulett of the Indians fouled out to AquaSox third baseman Brandon Green.

"After the second inning I was like what the heck is going on here," Nottingham said. "I just never even thought about it until the guy popped the ball up for the very last out of the third inning. I was just thinking to myself, ‘Don't catch this ball.'"

Unfortunately for Nottingham, AquaSox third baseman pulled it in to end the third inning, and the streak. But before it was over, Nottingham gave something for the 3,000-plus Everett Memorial fans to remember.

Drafted out of high school by the Mariners in the 13th-round of the 2003 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Massillon, Ohio native knew, if drafted, he was going to play professional baseball.

"I didn't want to take a chance and have an injury in college and not make the pros," said the southpaw. "Money wasn't the issue. If I work hard enough I know that will work itself out."

Nottingham arrived to rookie ball in Peoria for the 2003 season, sporting an 88–90 mph four-seam fastball, a curveball and change. He soon learned, however, that he couldn't get away with throwing the fastball by hitters, as he did in high school.

"A lot of guys come in here and throw as hard as they can," said Nottingham. "I did that last year and I got rocked, so I'm starting to figure out that you can't do that, at this level they are going to hit it."

Nottingham finished his rookie ball campaign 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA in 19.1 innings.

Hard work in the off-season has led to early season success for Nottingham in 2004. After last Sunday's start, he is 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA with 16 strikeouts and just three walks.

He has attributed his early season success this year to his work with AquaSox pitching coach Marcos Garcia. Garcia has added a two-seam fastball, which runs away from right-handed hitters, to Nottingham's repertoire and so far it has fared well against Northwest League opponents.

"I've just learned how to control the (two-seam fastball) this year," Nottingham said. "I've been getting a little more movement with the two-seam and I've noticed the hitters have a harder time with it."

Although striking out eight in a row was exciting for Nottingham, nothing could have prepared him for the news he received this past June. After completing his workout down in extended spring training in Peoria, he got the call that he was joining the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers in Las Vegas.

"Coach called me into his office and I thought I was in trouble," Nottingham said. "He was acting serious and then he said, ‘Pack your stuff, you're getting called up.'"

Although unusual for someone to make the leap from rookie ball to Triple-A, the 19-year-old Nottingham made the move due to a rash of injuries on Tacoma's staff and the desire by the Mariners to keep other farm teams' rotations in tact.

The experience was a unique chance to see what it was like to pitch at the last stop before the majors, and one that Nottingham is sure to not soon forget.

"I learned a lot in AAA from the guys - me being 19 - kids don't know too much up there," he explained. "It helped with my confidence because they weren't going to call me up if they didn't think I could do it."

Watching Nottingham on the hill, it's apparent that he has confidence it takes to succeed, and so far this season that confidence led to nothing but success.

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