Matt Shannon made his professional debut with the C’s at Nat Bailey Stadium June 25, 2017.
2017 Vancouver Canadians and 2018 Lansing Lugnuts pitcher Matt Shannon is the man of the moment in this episode of C’s Chat.
Hardcore C’s fans will associate the number 32 with Nate Pearson which he wore when he arrived in Vancouver after being selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. That number though was first worn by Shannon last season when he reported to Vancouver for his professional debut.
Shannon’s first appearance came on June 25 at Nat Bailey Stadium against the Spokane Indians and if you blinked or were late arriving at the park, you might have missed it. Dany Jimenez was listed as the probable starter for that Sunday afternoon game but the C’s elected to use Shannon in the ‘Opener’ role for the first inning. The 6-foot-3 righthander threw all of nine pitches, seven for strikes, as he retired the side in order on two groundouts and a flyout. Only an argument and ejection of Spokane first base coach Turtle Thomas on a play at the first base bag prevented Shannon and his teammates getting off the field quicker.
Shannon said it was not a big adjustment for him to make a one-inning start.
“No, not really. The (coaches) kind of explained to me the reasoning why behind it so I had all the time in the world to warm up and make sure I was ready for it. Of course, I want to go more (innings) because in college I was a starter and I’m used to going deep in the game. It’s just one of those things I had to adjust to and just went along it.”
“I had thrown like a hundred innings at college. We were on an innings limit. They wanted to make sure I was still healthy and make sure they’re not stressing me out with a whole big, long game there at the very beginning. That’s what the plan was.”
Shannon’s next outing came on Canada Day against the Eugene Emeralds and he was “almost” as efficient as he was during his debut as he fired just 10 pitches, seven for strikes, in another 1-2-3 inning. He collected his first strikeout and handled a comebacker to the mound to complete his outing.
The native of Pleasanton, Texas sensed how special it was to pitch on July 1.
“Oh absolutely. The fans up there are rowdy anyway but that day, they were extra rowdy. It was awesome. I haven’t got an adrenaline rush like that since. It’s unbelievable the support we get out there.”
Jays officials had given Shannon an idea of what it would be like to pitch in Vancouver.
“It was pretty awesome because they explained the environment that was there in Vancouver at Nat Bailey. It was unbelievable once I got there. My (second) outing was on Canada Day so there was 7,000-plus people there so that was real fun.”
I really liked it. It wasn’t really anything too much different. I mean, it’s still baseball but it was fun being in that atmosphere with those guys up there. Everybody’s getting to know each other. A whole bunch of new guys all playing to get better. It was real fun.”
Shannon was pleased that his first two pro innings were a success.
“Everybody wants to go up (to the mound) and never give up a hit so that was something I was really proud of. It was kind of unfortunate that I got hurt but the innings I threw went really well.”
Matt Shannon allowed just one hit and struck out four over four innings with Vancouver in 2017.
Injury Setback & Rehabilitation
Shannon made his third and final appearance of the season on the road in Boise. He struck out three over two shutout innings of one-hit ball at Boise Memorial Stadium July 7. His season would come to an end because of a foot injury.
“We were doing a little conditioning the day before I threw. I just stepped wrong and felt something pop. I told the trainer it didn’t feel right. I went and I got an x-ray and they said it was fractured so I had to go down to Florida and get a screw put in it.”
Shannon says he had to wrestle with taking his time to rehab the injury properly.
“It was tough because I had to pace myself down in Florida. The (training staff) had to emphasize pretty much every single day, ‘Look. You’re not playing again this year. Just chill out and make sure you don’t rush your foot back and then get after it in the off-season and come back strong this year.
We didn’t do really do too, too much. We did have a couple of ankle exercises with bands and different stuff like that. Just work it slow and nice and easy and get back on putting full pressure on it because I was on a scooter for so long. The whole leg was weak so we made sure we emphasized that leg and make sure it was just as strong as the other one was when I came back.
I just took it day by day. If it felt bad that I didn’t do much but if it felt alright, then I would go out and try to get better that day but not do too, too much to where I would set myself back a couple of more days. Just pace myself to where it’s every single day I’m getting better instead of one day I really, really push it and got to take two days off because it hurt. I just made sure I wasn’t doing too much.”
It took a while for Shannon to feel 100 percent again with his foot.
“Probably a couple of months, three months maybe. That wasn’t rushed. If I would’ve rushed it, it probably would have been a little bit faster but we really weren’t in a hurry so I took it nice and easy.”
Shannon said he did the best he could to keep track of how his C’s teammates were doing.
“It was really hard because there’s a three-hours time difference. It’s 10 o’clock in Florida and they’re just starting and then I got to get up at 6:00 am the next day to go to rehab. It was tough but I tried to on their day games. I kept track of everybody and so I call a couple of (teammates) and this and that.”
The fall instructional league allowed Shannon to reconnect with his Vancouver teammates even though he could not take part.
“I just learned about more of the guys from Canada who came back down. I still wasn’t released yet (from rehab) so I couldn’t play at all yet as I was still going through rehab during that time. I learned (about) all the coaches and how to get into a routine in pro ball.”
Matt Shannon reached 95 miles per hour on the radar gun with the C’s in 2017.
Pitching Routine & Repertoire
Shannon says he has his pitching routine down.
“You know, it’s typical. Just show up to the field. Make sure I stretch out and warm up if I feel a little cold. Roll out, do different types of stretches and then go out and stretch with the team and play catch.”
When it comes to new-age analytics, Shannon says he prefers to see how his pitches play from the hitter’s point of view.
“I try to look at (my pitches) as a hitter. I don’t necessarily look at spin rates or anything like that. I like looking at the way the ball comes out of the hand. Does it jump out of the hand? Does it have the same spin? Is there a dot on the ball? Looking at making sure my changeup spins the same way as my two-seam (fastball). Making sure the slider doesn’t have a big dot on it, (that it’s) tight and maybe not have a dot. Just looking at it from a hitter’s perspective instead of like analytical.”
Shannon says he has four pitches he can use.
“I have a sinker and a slider and I have a four-seam (fastball) that I like to throw sometimes when I get ahead (in the count) and put them away with a four-seamer instead of just pitching to contact with the sinker because that’s typically what I do. I sink it when it’s early (in the count) and when it’s late in the count, then I go to a four (seamer) and put them away. I also have a changeup I like throwing.”
As far as who he would like to emulate on the mound, Shannon chose the famous father of one of his C’s teammates.
“I like to compare myself to Kacy’s dad, Roger (Clemens). We’re kind of built the same, bigger body guys that kind of get after it. I’m not really a placement guy. It’s a hundred percent, ‘Here, you try and hit it.’ He has a splitter that I don’t throw. I really try to get after then with the fastball like he did.”
Shannon said he had a chance encounter with the Rocket Man himself.
“We were in Spokane. I was throwing a bullpen and he walks up behind me. I wasn’t really paying attention. I was focused on throwing the pen. He says, ‘Hey! How you holding that sinker?’ So I turned around and I didn’t really pay attention. I showed it to him and then it like hit me. I was like, ‘Oh man! That’s Roger Clemens!’ It was just unbelievable.”
The College Years
Shannon went to Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas after dominating as a pitcher and a catcher at Pleasanton High School. During his senior year, he went 8-0 with a 0.70 earned run average and struck out 74 batters in 40 innings. He slugged. 564 in 78 at-bats and behind the plate, he was 17-for-19 in throwing out basestealers.
During his four years in college, Shannon helped the ASU Rams reach two College World Series in 2015 and 2016. He became their ace in 2017 when he went 9-5 with a 3.22 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 100-2/3 innings.
When reflecting on his college tenure, team chemistry was a recurring theme.
“Just the chemistry that we had. The first year that I went, we didn’t have very much chemistry. It sucked. Baseball was bad and it reflected on the field. We were pretty bad too. And then the next year, we totally brought a bunch of new guys in and flipped the script and we went to the (College) World Series with one of the best records in Angelo State history. That chemistry was just unbelievable.
Then the next year, we were not as talented. We started off a little rough and then we really had to pick it up and got hot at the right time. That was just because the guys in the clubhouse didn’t want lose. That was really unbelievable. Kind of like we were when we were in Vancouver. Had the same feeling like that.”
Shannon says a big key to his college success was his pitching coach.
“Yeah, it absolutely does. We had a pitching coach (Travis Lawler) out there that was just unreal. His dad (Jim Lawler) was one of the coaches at (Texas) A&M and a coach for Team USA as well. The pitching coach there really grew up around the game and he’s taught me almost everything I know.”
Donnie Sellers (left) and Matt Shannon were drafted in the 11th and 12th rounds of the 2017 draft respectively by the Toronto Blue Jays.
After being rated as the number 5 prospect in NCAA Division II ball by Baseball America in 2017, Shannon was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 12th round with the 369th pick overall. He says he had no indication that Toronto was interested in him before the draft.
“I really didn’t have any idea. I talked to (the Blue Jays) a couple of times here and there. I heard a few things leading up to the draft but I didn’t know when it was going to come. I finally got the call and I was really excited.
I was moving brush piles out of our ranch (at the time of the draft). That was about it. Of course I met up with our family that night (to celebrate).”
The scout credited with Shannon’s signing is Gerald Turner, who also brought his 2017 C’s pitcher Kyle Weatherly and 2016 Canadian hurler Justin Maese into the Blue Jays fold. Turner was also the signing scout for current Houston Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis.
Matt Shannon picked up his first two professional wins and first two professional saves in May with Lansing.
Pitching in Lansing
Shannon was able to pick up where he left off in 2017 by starting his Lansing Lugnuts career with a pair of two shutout inning performances April 28 in West Michigan and May 2 against Kane County, the latter resulting in his first professional save. He gave up his first professional run in his next outing May 7 at Wisconsin and was roughed up for three runs over two innings May 12 in Beloit. The silver lining was he earned his first professional victory. Shannon felt his pitching line that night was not that bad.
“That one bad outing was just like a bump in the road. That was actually the game that I felt like I had my best stuff. I had all three pitches working in and out, up and down whenever I wanted to but baseball is baseball and that’s what happens. Sometimes you get hit around a little bit but you just got to make sure you come back and make up for it.”
Shannon earned his second win of the season with the Lugnuts after pitching a scoreless 10th inning at home against Dayton May 15.
“It just really shows the trust that (the coaches) have in me, starting me off in an extra-innings game with a guy on second base and say, ‘Hey, don’t lose!’ and I got out of it. It just shows how much trust they have in me. “
Though Shannon gave up six runs over his next outings, he righted the ship with two shutout innings against Fort Wayne May 26. He then gave himself an early birthday present by collecting a save the night before his 23rd birthday against Lake County May 30.
Shannon credits Lansing Lugnuts pitching coach Antonio Caceras for helping him adjust to full-season baseball.
Tony here is awesome. The guy knows a lot of baseball. He knows what the ball should do. He really explains like how to (throw pitches). I think he’s really helped me.”
Shannon says his main objective for 2018 is to get through the season in one piece.
“The biggest one I’m trying to accomplish is just staying healthy. I have pretty good stuff. As long as I stay healthy, I’ll get better and then I’ll move up whenever that happens but my main goal is to stay healthy this year.”
Shannon also doesn’t mind carrying his team on his back, or at least a teammate. Just ask 2016 C’s first baseman Christian Williams.
— Christian Williams™ (@ChiWilly24) May 20, 2018
My thanks to Matt Shannon for doing the heavy lifting in this episode of C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @mattshannon14. Another thank you goes out to Lugnuts broadcaster Dante De Caria for organizing the interview. He’s on Twitter @Diamond_Dante . Check out Dante and Jesse Goldberg-Strassler (@jgoldstrass ) for all the Lugnuts broadcasts at LansingLugnuts.com or The Game730AM.com.