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Former Mitchell ace Schuster not resting on no-hitter legacy

For all intents, Patrick Schuster's pro career remains in its infancy. Thirteen months after catapulting to ESPN immortality with four consecutive no-hitters for Mitchell, the minor-league sheet on Schuster remains mostly inconclusive.

Except for one glaring notation: You can steal on him.

Early last week Schuster's beloved black Ford F-150, his most extravagant indulgence after signing a reported $450,000 bonus with the Arizona Diamondbacks, was ripped off in Tucson. It was found on a roadside roughly eight hours later, albeit with approximately $5,000 in stereo equipment missing.

"My girlfriend was here and she took it out to go running and just parked it somewhere, and when she came back it was gone," Schuster, a Diamondbacks 13th-round pick last summer, said by phone Tuesday. "I didn't think I was getting it back but I got lucky."

As setbacks go, it's the only one Schuster has experienced in a pro career being nurtured slowly and delicately.

"They all seem really happy with what he's doing and his progress and dedication to his craft," said Schuster's mom, Sharon, who just returned from a weekend visit to Tucson. "They all seem to be expecting him to do great things."

Those hopes aren't accompanied by hastiness.

Four days after arriving at Arizona's headquarters last summer, Schuster hadn't touched a baseball. When he got his assignment, to the club's rookie league affiliate in Missoula, Mont., in August, Schuster worked only five total innings in a setup role, allowing four hits and two earned runs while striking out six and walking four.

Now, after an early pitchers camp in February, spring training and extended spring training, he's awaiting his next assignment. He could head back to Missoula — where he roomed with two teammates in an extended-stay hotel last year — or move to the club's short-season Class A affiliate in Yakima, Wash.

Schuster doesn't know for sure, and may not until the conclusion of next week's Major League Baseball first-year player draft. Mike Berger, the Diamondbacks' director of player development, didn't respond to an interview request.

"They've got me going full-fledged now," said Schuster, who has spent the past several weeks pitching in or observing intrasquad games in Tucson. "They've got me scheduled as a starter. I'm ready to go out there and throw in front of some fans instead of 100-degree weather in front of no one."

A little more than a year ago, a mesmerized nation was watching him throw.

In an 18-day span, Schuster, a lanky 6-foot-2 left-hander, tossed no-hitters against Land O'Lakes, River Ridge, Clearwater Central Catholic (five innings) and Pasco. In that 26-inning span, he struck out 60 and walked seven, outclassing most batters with his 90-mph velocity and baffling slider.

When he took the mound for his crack at no-hitter No. 5 in an April 28 district tournament semifinal against Gaither at Countryside High, roughly 1,000 fans watched from the seats while thousands more watched on live regional TV. He already had appeared on ESPN2's First Take and had dinner with a New York Times reporter.

"Thinking back, it's just completely and utterly stupid," said Schuster, whose streak ended that day with a third-inning double by Gaither junior Drew Doty.

"Looking back and talking to people, I honestly can't believe (the streak) happened. Normally somebody sticks a bat out and they'll get a hit. Honestly I wasn't trying to do it, but it happened and no one will ever be able to explain it."

These days, Schuster, now close to 185 pounds after graduating high school at 164, says he's trying to evolve from power pitcher to prudent one. He's developing a two-seamer to complement his slider, and seems equally content with strikeouts and groundouts. His three-quarter delivery, scrutinized at the height of his prep popularity, hasn't been touched by the Diamondbacks, he said.

"It's funny, in high school if I gave up a hit I would be like, 'Okay, I'm going to strike the next two guys out,' " Schuster said. "Now if someone reaches first it's like, 'Ah, I've got to get a double play now.' It's just a different mind-set."

And an open one. Schuster, who spurned a University of Florida scholarship to turn pro, says he has charted no timetable for advancement, reveling in the journey instead of obsessing on the destination.

The cusp of adulthood isn't devoid of youthful indulgence. His second day in Missoula, home to the University of Montana, Schuster went white-water rafting. His spending, while occasionally lavish, hasn't been foolish. He has more than 600 friends on Facebook.

"I had a blast out there with him," Sharon Schuster said. "I just think he's where he needs to be. He seems extremely happy and that he made the right choice. I know he's working hard to make an impression and making the right decisions. We're just extremely proud of him."

Former Mitchell ace Schuster not resting on no-hitter legacy 06/02/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 9:02pm]
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