December 27, 2013

The waiting game

Boggs optimistic but unsure what's next

By Devin Golden
devingolden@daltoncitizen.com

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that former Dalton High School standout and Major League Baseball veteran Mitchell Boggs finished his 2013 season with the Colorado Springs Rockies, the Colorado Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate. Boggs was sent down to the minors after making two appearances with the Rockies after being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals, but he was called back up to the majors and made seven more appearances as a relief pitcher. He sported a 3.12 ERA in nine showings for the Rockies, a significant improvement from his 11.05 ERA in 18 appearances for the Cardinals last season.

For the first time since he was drafted in 2005, Dalton’s Mitchell Boggs does not have a team of his own in professional baseball.

For now, that’s OK with Boggs.

The 2002 Dalton High School graduate is among the free agents still without a Major League Baseball club to call home this winter. Earlier this month, the Colorado Rockies elected to not offer a contract to the 29-year-old right-handed relief pitcher after just half a season with the organization.

He was traded to the Rockies on July 9 by the St. Louis Cardinals, who drafted him out of the University of Georgia and used him in several pitching capacities — from starter to just about every bullpen possibility — during his time with the club. Boggs was in the minors at the time of the trade.

“It’s been a different offseason, but in this business that happens,” Boggs said during an interview with The Daily Citizen earlier this week. “I’m doing everything I can right now to prepare myself this spring, no matter who the team or organization is.”

The former Catamounts football and baseball standout endured a disappointing 2013 season. With the Cardinals, he finished 0-3 with an 11.05 ERA in 18 appearances and was sent down to the minors twice. He started the year as the team’s closer when No. 1 stopper Jason Motte suffered a season-ending injury, but Boggs failed in three of his five save opportunities.

With the Rockies, Boggs made two promising appearances to bring his ERA to 8.10, but he again was sent to the minors. He made another trip to the majors and finished the season with a 3.12 ERA in nine appearances with the Rockies.

“Last (season), while it was happening and while you’re in the middle of it, it’s frustrating and disappointing and in a way embarrassing,” Boggs said. “You keep working hard and persevere. You look back on it, and if you use the lessons, you’ll benefit and learn from it for a long, long time. I look around, and the support I received from my friends, family and wife (LeLe), I’m blessed for the things I’ve had.

“This year is not something I want to go through ever again, but I’m proud of the way I handled it and it will benefit me down the road for sure.”

Boggs expressed confidence his baseball career will continue, saying he is talking to “several teams” and that a contract offer and agreement “should happen very soon.” However, Boggs feels foreign not being with the team that drafted him nearly a decade ago.

“That’s the longest I’ve ever been affiliated with any organization for my life aside from Dalton Public Schools,” Boggs said. “Heading into the offseason, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It has been a surprising offseason for me, just how much peace my wife and I have had through this whole process.

“There is a lot of uncertainty right now. We really don’t have a lot of definitive answers heading into the first of the year and spring training for the first time in my career.”

Pitchers and catchers typically report to spring training in mid-February.

Boggs, 29, showed before this past season that he could be one of the best relievers in baseball. In 2011, he was with the Cardinals as they won the World Series. His breakthrough season came in 2012, when he assumed a role as a setup reliever. He finished the season with a 4-1 record, 2.21 ERA and MLB-leading 34 holds.

He was eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2012 season, but it was avoided when he signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals. The contract was for $1.475 million, according to a report on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s website (stltoday.com).

Boggs no doubt would have liked better circumstances for his first stint as a free agent.

“I’m in a position coming off a tough year where I won’t be able to pick and choose where I play,” Boggs said. “I’ll be fortunate to play the game of baseball next year for somebody. (But) there are a lot of teams in the mix.

“I’ve proved I can be as good as anybody in the game at what I do. ... Hopefully in a few years, I’ll be in a better situation where I can pick and choose teams.”