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Thursday, March 8, 2012
Coming out of nowhere, headed somewhere?

By Mark Saxon

The 2008 draft dragged on for 50 rounds, with the 30 major league teams trading picks during a seemingly endless conference call that eventually led to 1,504 players being taken.

Of that number, 1,019 were college players.

None of them was named Matt Shoemaker of Eastern Michigan University.

So, it comes as a bit of a surprise that Shoemaker, 25, is in Angels camp with an outside shot to make the team's rotation. If Shoemaker makes it, it would be among the least-likely stories in recent memory.

"To me, it's just fuel to the fire," Shoemaker said. "I'm just out here trying to show what I can do, trying to play and bust my butt every day, trying to get an opportunity to play in the big leagues and make a career out of it."

Nobody seemed to utter Shoemaker's name much before last summer, but he forced his way into the team's collective conscience. He went 12-5 with a 2.48 ERA for Double-A Arkansas, walked practically nobody (fewer than two batters per nine innings) and was named the Texas League pitcher of the year. He got invitations to pitch in the Baseball World Cup and the Pan Am Games.

Suddenly, his is a name people recognize, even Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose rotation is strong, but not quite deep.

"I think Shoe has a real chance to open some eyes in this camp," Scioscia said. "I think we have a lot of guys competing for a spot in our rotation and, when that day comes up April 15, some things can change and you don't know what player out of a pool of guys is going to jump up and take it."