Robby Scott wondered what the heck Jose Canseco was doing, walking out to the mound during Scott’s warm-up pitches before the second inning.
Canseco, manager of the independent-league Yuma Scorpions, told Scott to come out of the game, even though Scott struck out the side in the first inning.
“You’re not taking him out,” the Scorpions catcher protested.
Canseco smiled at Scott.
“I have to take you out because the Boston Red Sox just bought your contract,” Canseco told him.
Scott could not give the ball to Canseco fast enough. Never had a pitcher been so happy to be sent to the showers.
That happened in August, 2011, the first step in a journey that has brought Scott to Portland, where he is putting up some of the best numbers in the Red Sox organization.
Scott, a left-hander, features the best ERA (0.70), the second-best walks/hits per inning ratio (0.86) and is tied with teammate Keith Couch for the most wins among all Red Sox pitchers, majors or minors.
Pretty good for a pitcher no one wanted.
Scott, 24, a Miami native, hails from Florida State University, a big-college program where stars are made – and other players forgotten. Scott fit into the latter category.
“I definitely learned a lot about baseball because I watched a lot of baseball,” Scott said.
An all-state starter at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale, and all-conference with Broward Community College, Scott was banished to the FSU bullpen and rarely called upon – eight innings his junior year, 9 1/3 innings as a senior.
Not surprisingly, Scott went undrafted in 2011. He graduated with a double degree in sociology and communications. He turned down a job in sales. Baseball was not out of his system.
“I thought I had what it took to play at the next level,” he said.
While visiting his uncle and attending a Tampa Bay Rays game in July that year, Scott’s phone rang. It was the general manager from the Yuma (Arizona) Scorpions of the independent North American League. Would he like a job?
“I left the game, drove back home and flew out the next morning,” Scott said.
Before leaving home, Scott researched the Scorpions.
“I called up their website and there’s a picture of Jose Canseco,” Scott said. “I had no idea what to expect.”
Scott met the team in Chicago, where the Scorpions were to play the Lake County Fielders. The Lake County players were threatening to strike because they hadn’t been paid. The Fielders decided to play but with a unique protest – the pitchers played the field and the everyday players pitched.
The Scorpions decided to do the same thing. Scott’s first professional game was as a center fielder batting cleanup.
“I thought, ‘What am I getting into?’ ” he said. But Canseco made it fun, offering any pitcher $500 if he hit a home run.
Scott managed a double, but “one of the pitchers did hit a home run. And right there in the dugout (Canseco) handed him $500,” Scott said.
Scott eventually pitched and dominated (11 innings, 19 strikeouts, no runs). Al Nipper, the former Red Sox pitcher, scouted Scott for Boston. Nipper met Scott, watched him pitch the first inning of a game and the Sox bought his contract.
Scott pitched in rookie leagues for Boston in 2011 and jumped to advanced Class A Salem last year – 4-4, 2.79 ERA, 44 strikeouts/30 walks in 67 2/3 innings.
“Very steady, very reliable,” said Billy McMillon, manager of Salem last year and Portland this season. “He wasn’t lights-out like he is this year.”
Scott commands a 93 mph fastball to both corners, with a curve and improved change-up.
Scott has struck out 21, walking six. Ten of his 11 outings have been scoreless. He has pitched 25 2/3 innings for Portland, already more than his Florida State career.
“Every night I go to bed and thank God for the opportunity,” Scott said. “It didn’t come easy.”
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: