The Atlanta Braves have signed three players from independent baseball leagues: former big league pitchers Jason Shiell and Clint Sodowsky, and outfielder Bobby Darula.
Shiell is returning home to the Braves organization, where he was drafted in the 48th round of the 1995 draft. He was apart of that fantastic rotation in Macon in 1996, with Jason Marquis, Odalis Perez, Bruce Chen, Rob Bell, and Jimmy Osting. Shiell was 10-5 that season with a 2.86 ERA in 27 games (24 starts).
The right-hander had arm problems and missed most of the 1998 season, and then after the 1999 season the Braves traded him to San Diego in the Boone/Klesko/Sanders/Veras trade. The Padres made Shiell a reliever, and after posting a 2.78 ERA in 56 games in Triple-A Portland, he was promoted to the big leagues.
Shiell pitched three games in San Diego, allowing four runs, and then after the 2002 season he was claimed off the waiver wire by the Red Sox. In 2003, Shiell had another solid season in Triple-A, striking out 22 batters in 20 relief appearances. He was then promoted to Boston where he was 2-0 with a 4.63 ERA in 17 games. Shiell walked 17 and walked 23.
He was in big league camp with the Red Sox in 2004, but was then had more arm problems. The Braves signed him out of the Atlantic League, where he was 3-2 in nine starts for Somerset. Shiell had allowed 54 hits in 52.1 innings, with 18 walks, and 32 strikeouts. The 29-year-old Shiell will report to Richmond in a few days.
Sodowsky was pitching for the Pensacola Pelicans of the American Association. The six-foot-two right-hander was 5-1 in 8 games started, an ERA of 2.45, 44 hits allowed in 55 innings, 18 walks, and 56 strikeouts. Opponents were hitting only .219 on him this season.
Originally drafted by the Tigers in the 9th round of the 1991 draft, Sodowsky made his big league debut with Detroit in 1995. He started six games that year and was 2-2 with a 5.01 ERA. Sodowsky made seven starts in Detroit the next season, but a 11.84 ERA had him back down in Triple-A.
Sodowsky then moved on to the Pirates’ organization, where he pitched in 45 games in Pittsburgh in 1997. That was his best season, as he posted a 2-2 record and a 3.63 ERA, with 51 strikeouts in 52 innings.
The Diamondbacks got him in the Expansion Draft the next winter, and he pitched in 45 games with Arizona in 1998. He moved on to the Cardinals’ organization the next season and pitched in three games in St. Louis in 1999.
Sodowsky, who turns 34 years old in three weeks, has bounced around the minors the last six years, missing the 2002 season with an arm injury. He was in the minors with the Rangers, Indians, Phillies, and Marlins from 2000 through this year, but has not been able to get back to the big leagues.
The Braves will place Sodowsky in Double-A Mississippi in a few days.
The 31-year-old Darula is a career minor leaguer. He was hitting .358 with 10 RBI in 21 games for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League.
Darula was signed as an undrafted free agent by Milwaukee in 1996. He spent six years in the Brewers’ system, following by three years in the Reds’ organization, and last season in Triple-A for the Orioles. He entered this season with a career .315 average in the minors, with 806 hits, 37 home runs, 110 stolen bases, and a .398 on base percentage.
The Braves will place Darula on the Mississippi roster in a few days. He’ll replace Matt Esquivel, who was suspended indefinitely by the Braves’ organization.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.