NORFOLK, Va. — The scenario is nothing new to Robert Neustrom, even when it’s not supreme. He’s been right here earlier than, a highschool baseball standout in Sioux City, Iowa, who flew underneath the radar. Before he turned a star on the University of Iowa, he wanted to stroll onto the Hawkeyes program, proving to others what he already believed about himself — that he belonged.
“I’ll always be that kid from Iowa who the scouts weren’t flocking to, and the colleges weren’t flocking to,” Neustrom mentioned this week, sitting within the dugout at Harbor Park, the house of the Triple-A Norfolk Tides. “I always play like I’ve got nothing to lose.”
That’s how Neustrom stays constructive. When he wasn’t added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster on the finish of final season, he realized a significant league debut with one other membership was a risk. He had 4 seasons of minor league service time, making him eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
But because the Major League Baseball lockout dragged on, Neustrom and others had been left in limbo. And then the league and gamers affiliation canceled this offseason’s Rule 5 draft, a transfer that left gamers similar to Neustrom and left-hander Nick Vespi within the lurch.
Players chosen within the draft have to be stored on the key league roster for the subsequent season or be provided again to the unique crew for half the $100,000 choice price. At this level, fairly than enjoying in Triple-A, both Neustrom or Vespi may’ve made his main league debut elsewhere.
“You can always say I could’ve,” Vespi mentioned. “But everything happens for a reason. I’m here. I still have the chance to make it here.”
It’s that mentality that drives each Neustrom and Vespi, nonetheless off Baltimore’s 40-man roster but pushed to make their case at an enormous league debut with the membership that drafted them. They don’t have any different possibility than to just accept any lingering disappointment from the Rule 5 draft cancellation and show they belong with the Orioles.
Both gamers are doing their half. Entering Wednesday, Vespi has recorded 4 saves and allowed three runs in 13 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. Neustrom is hitting .278 with 5 homers, 5 steals and 16 RBIs.
When the Rule 5 draft was canceled, the conversations with brokers and members of the family began with disappointment. But Vespi and Neustrom rebounded shortly, refocusing on what they might do with this group to deserve a glance.
Vespi wished to pound the strike zone extra, and he did so in Tuesday’s save, working 1 2/3 innings with out permitting successful. Neustrom aimed to enhance his protection, dispelling any doubts from scouts about his capacity to play all three outfield spots. He wished to work on his swing choices, reducing his chase fee.
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Those had been enhancements they wished to make whether or not or not the Rule 5 draft was performed.
“There’s a reason for everything they do,” Neustrom mentioned. “They canceled the Rule 5, and it just so happened to be in my Rule 5 year. That’s what happened. And honestly, man, I can honestly say when it did happen, sure I was hurt, but at the same time I already knew the task at hand. And my task is to get to the big leagues. That’s not an easy task for anybody. I know if I come out here and work hard, do what I need to do, I believe someone will see it, whether it’s the Orioles or someone else.”
Vespi and Neustrom each earned main league spring coaching invites, working in entrance of the Orioles employees and govt vice chairman and basic supervisor Mike Elias. Vespi met Elias, and whereas he didn’t make the massive league squad, he left camp feeling valued.
“When my time comes, I’ll go,” Vespi mentioned. “Let’s go.”
And for Neustrom, the preliminary “heartbreak” of the Rule 5 draft cancellation has solely hardened his resolve. He is aware of there was no assure he’d be drafted. If it did occur, he may be in the identical place he’s in now, preventing to be seen amongst a throng of extremely ranked prospects.
He’s been on this place earlier than, although, as a highschool child proving his price for Iowa. So the duty forward, whereas daunting in nature, isn’t something he’d shrink back from.
“You look around, there’s so much competition,” Neustrom mentioned. “I have my work set out for me. Everybody does. My mountain I have to climb is pretty tall. I want to do it, you know what I mean? I’m here right now and I’m with the Orioles. I want to help the Orioles win. That’s my goal. I want to be on a team that I know I’m making a difference. And also, I want to be on a team that has a winning culture, and I think with all the talent we have here with the Orioles, it can one day happen, and I would love to be a part of it.”