Fireballer Steckenrider eager for shot at bigs

Fireballer Steckenrider eager for shot at bigs

MIAMI -- When Spring Training begins on Feb. 14, hard-throwing reliever Drew Steckenrider will get his first taste of big league camp. The right-hander, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Marlins' 18th overall prospect, is trending toward reaching the Majors at some point in 2017.

Before taking that next significant step on the field, Steckenrider recently received valuable insights into what life is like in the big leagues. The 26-year-old took part in the MLB/MLBPA Rookie Career Development Program from Jan. 5-8 in Leesburg, Va. Prospects from all 30 clubs attended the annual event.

"It is very eye-opening to hear the stories from some of the guys who have been in the big leagues," Steckenrider said.

Steckenrider's journey in professional baseball has been a long one, and the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder has faced his share of adversity.

A native of Atlanta, Steckenrider attended the University of Tennessee, where he initially pitched and played some outfield. In his first collegiate at-bat, he homered. But he made his mark as a pitcher.

The Marlins selected Steckenrider in the eighth round in the 2012 Draft. Before his professional career could take off, his right elbow gave out.

Initially, Steckenrider was hopeful to avoid surgery, and he went through a rehabilitation process. Once he opted for Tommy John surgery in May 2013, he missed the 2014 season, as well.

"Doing the surgery was one of the hardest choices I had to make myself, but I'm glad I made that decision," he said. "Everyone has taken care of me. I'm thankful to those people who got me back to healthy and to this point of my career."

There was no questioning Steckenrider's arm strength a couple of months ago. During the Arizona Fall League, his fastball touched 100 mph. In 13 innings in the Fall League, Steckenrider struck out 15.

Early in Steckenrider's pro career, he was being groomed as a starter. Now, he's strictly a reliever, where he has developed a mindset of attacking hitters with his power fastball.

Steckenrider had a strong 2016 season, pitching at three levels -- Class A Advanced Jupiter, Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans. In 52 combined innings, he struck out 71 and walked 19.

"I'm not really going to mix stuff in right away unless I have to, unless it's a certain situation," Steckenrider said. "I'm not going to go up there and throw a guy four breaking balls. I'm going to try to attack guys with fastballs."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.