Former Jackets Charlie Culberson, Josh Smoker, Josh Schubert and Jordan Poole are all in either Arizona or Florida currently for Spring Training, and each are trying to impress their clubs.
Culberson and Smoker are the experienced players of the group as both are in their sixth Spring Training of their careers after being drafted in 2007. Smoker was taken with the 31st overall pick by the Washington Nationals, and Culberson was drafted 51st overall by the San Francisco Giants.
Schubert and Poole, however, are starting their first Spring Training as professional players as they were both drafted last June, Schubert by the Cleveland Indians and Poole by the Nationals.
Culberson has made it the furthest up the ladder out of the group as he made his Major League debut last season, playing in six games for the Giants in May. This spring will be different for him as it is his first as part of the Colorado Rockies organization. He was traded from the Giants last July in exchange for experienced infielder Marco Scutaro.
“Being over here with the Rockies has been an easy transition for me,” said Culberson, who reported to the Rockies Spring Training complex in Scottsdale, Ariz. in February. “From the coaching staff to the players, I have really enjoyed everything so far.
The biggest things I have been working on this spring are getting into a good routine and just trying to be myself out there. I know what I can do, and I’m just trying to show the Rockies that.”
It will also be a little different spring for Culberson because it’s his first as a father after he and his wife Sarah had their daughter, Collins, last September. He said having a family has changed things for the spring and his expectations for the year.
“My expectations for the year are to have fun,” said Culberson. “I will have my wife and little girl with me throughout the year. Having them with me will be a lot of fun and keep my mind off of ball sometimes, too. I will work when I get to the park and have family time at home. This year should be fun, and we are looking forward to whatever comes our way.”
Poole and Schubert, who were both a part of Calhoun’s 2010 state championship team, are both trying to make a big impression in their first Spring Training. Poole reported to Nationals’ camp in Viera, Fla. on March 1, and Schubert reported to Indians’ camp in Goodyear, Ariz. last Friday. Both are focusing on improving in the spring.
“The biggest thing I’m working on is making more contact,” said Poole, who spent time in Class-A Short Season for the Auburn Doubledays as well as a few weeks in Nationals’ Rookie League after signing last season. “I struck out too much last year, and I want to cut down on that. Other than that, I’m just trying to get better in all aspects.”
Schubert said he is also working on contact as well as other things.
“I want to put those strikeouts last year behind me,” said Schubert, who played in Indians’ Rookie League last year after signing and spent time at Instructs in September. “I am concentrating on putting the ball in play and the power will come after that. The Indians have told me they like me in the outfield with my defense and arm, I’ve just got to get more consistent and reliable at the plate and defensively.”
Smoker, who was a part of Calhoun’s 2005 state championship team along with Culberson, is still working hard to make it up the Minor-League ladder after suffering several injuries and setbacks over the last few years.
For the four former local stars, nothing is written in stone as to where they will begin the year, and each has different expectations and guesses as to where they will start the season.
Culberson has a possible shot to make Colorado’s Opening-Day roster as a utility player that can play second, third and even some shortstop. Still, he said he’s not putting too much thought into that right now.
“I’m not sure where I will start,” said Culberson. “I’m trying not to worry about that so much. I am focusing on getting ready for the season and see what happens from there.
“Whatever I can do to help out the Big League Club, that is what I am going to do.”
Schubert said he is aiming for starting above Rookie League ball where he finished last season.
“It’s mostly pre-determined where they want you to be to start the season,” said Schubert. “If everything goes as planned, I’m probably going to start in low single-A for Mahoning Valley in the New York-Penn League so that will be good if it happens to put rookie ball behind me. If I play like I’m able to, I’m expecting to be there. If I just play lights out this spring, I could possibly go to Lake County (High Class-A), but I’m expecting to start in Low-A.”
Poole, who started his college career at Ole Miss before transferring to Chipola College, said he will go wherever the organization sends him, and he will work on becoming a better player wherever he goes.
“I wish I could tell you, but I have no idea right now where I’ll be,” said Poole. “I would love to make a full-season roster, but wherever they send me, I’ll be happy. I’m just working on being consistent as a player right now. Eliminating slumps and stretching out the hot streaks is my goal for this season.”