APRIL 21, 2015
Former Lawrence Co. star making his way up the ranks in pro baseball
Monday was homecoming for Chandler Shepherd.
Shepherd was at Whitaker Bank Ballpark with the Greenville Drive, who opened a three-game series against the Lexington Legends.
The right-handed relief pitcher out of Lawrence County and the University of Kentucky entered a 2-2 game in the seventh inning.
He worked two innings, giving up one hit, a solo home run by Alfredo Escalera. Shepherd struck out two and walked none.
He came into the series with a 1-0 record — the win coming last week against the Legends. In two games and 41⁄3 innings of action, Shepherd had allowed one unearned run, while striking out seven and walking two.
“I feel good about it. The team’s playing well,” Shepherd said before Monday’s game. “Things are going really good. It’s a long season, so we’re just trying to take it day-by-day right now.”
The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder is no stranger to the Legends’ home, having taken Lawrence County to the State tourney in 2008 and 2009, when the facility was called Applebee’s Park. Memories are mixed.
“I have some bad ones and some good ones,” he said. “But it’s good to be back. I’m excited to see my family and see guys that I went to college with. Hopefully they can come out and make it to a game or two.”
In the 2008 tourney, Shepherd fired a four-hit shutout against Greenup County. A year later, he dropped a decision to Owensboro.
He still holds the state record of 46 consecutive shutout innings. Over his high school career, he went 40-12 with 512 strikeouts in 353 innings.
The Chicago White Sox selected him in the 41st round of the 2011 draft, but Shepherd opted to pitch for UK.
“Going to Kentucky was probably the best decision I could have made,” he said. “I learned so much. I grew up. It’s a big difference starting pro ball at my mindset I had when I was 18 versus 21 and 22. So I definitely don’t regret it. I miss being a Wildcat, but things are going great right now.”
The native of Louisa throws a fastball, curveball, changeup and circle-change.
In three seasons at UK, he compiled a 13-6 record in 60 games, including 19 starts. He had a 3.45 ERA and two saves over 188 innings, with 57 walks and 128 strikeouts.
The Boston Red Sox picked him in the 13th round of last year’s draft.
He is much the same pitcher now as he was as a Cat.
“Obviously I’ve worked with different coaches. … Walter Miranda, our pitching coach now, we’ve worked on some things,” Shepherd said. “But I think overall I think that my game is still pretty similar to what it was in light of things I learned with Coach (Gary) Henderson here at UK.”
He says he learned the game at UK.
“Growing up was a big part of it, just from the maturity side of it. Learning more about the game, mental preparation — how to actually play the game versus just go out and throw the ball around.”
Shepherd pitched at Lowell in the New York-Penn League last summer. He was 4-3 with a 4.05 ERA in 16 appearances, 15 in relief.
“Besides the talent level, you’re jumping up to playing with guys from everywhere versus just guys that you knew in college,” Shepherd said of his biggest adjustments as a pro. “I’d say just being gone a long time. You’ve got to make adjustments. You’re on your own. There’s no time schedule. Everything’s on you. So I think the responsibility is a big part of it.”
A big part of Shepherd’s game both as an amateur and as a pro has been his ability to consistently throw strikes.
“That’s something that the coaches at Kentucky really instilled in me,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in it, so it’s important. You’ve got to have a guy on the mound that throws strikes. It just helps the game. It makes the game go by faster. It keeps the guys on defense on their toes, ready to go. It’s just a big part of the game.”