Riske could pay huge rewards in 'pen

Riske could pay huge rewards in KC 'pen

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If David Riske were coming out of Green River (Wash.) Community College this year, he would not be drafted.

The Indians selected Riske in the 56th round in the 1996 First-Year Player Draft. The Draft stops at 50 rounds now. Steve Avila, the scout who selected Riske, did not give him much of a recommendation.

"He said, 'I don't think you have good enough stuff to make it to the big leagues,' Riske said. "He said this all right to my face. He said, 'I'm just doing this basically as a favor.' He said I had below average stuff and that I wasn't going to be playing very long."

Well, 12 years later and Riske is still playing. And Riske has pitched nearly seven years in the Majors while developing into one of the most reliable setup men. The Royals signed Riske as a free agent in December to be the primary setup for closer Octavio Dotel.

Riske did not pitch until he got to junior college.

"I played shortstop my whole life all the way up until I went to junior college, " he said. "My junior college coach switched me to pitcher. I wasn't very happy with it really. I always loved to play shortstop and hit. I didn't want to pitch really. He pushed me and it all went from there."

Riske, who was throwing 89-91 mph in junior college, had signed a letter of intent with Texas Tech when the Indians drafted him.

"I had a good summer ball [season] and decided to sign," Riske said. "I didn't want to go to school anymore. I wanted to go to pro ball and see what I had and what I could do. I was always competitive and I was confident in my skills on what I could do."

Being an afterthought low draft pick, Riske arrived in camp the next spring with little fanfare.

"I don't think the coaches or anybody even had any idea who I was," Riske said.

He knew he had to open eyes in a hurry if he wanted to stick around.

"Being competitive, I was like, 'I'm going to show them,'" Riske said. "I could always throw strikes. I went in and threw strikes and had a really good first Spring Training. When you see a guy that has command that young, then that's a plus, you're kind of ahead of other guys."

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After spending his entire career in the Indians organization, Riske was traded twice last year: first in January to the Red Sox and then in June to the White Sox.

"The first one was kind of a shock just because I had such a good '05," Riske said. "It was good for me to change teams because I wasn't being used the way I wanted to be used. The second trade was the bigger shock. I got hurt (back spasms) in Spring Training last year, was out about a month and then I came back throwing really well, feeling really well. Boston didn't have a lefty in the bullpen, so they traded me for a lefty."

When he became a free agent, he said he was thinking about signing with the Mariners since he was from Seattle. Two factors, however, lured him to the Royals -- manager Buddy Bell, whom he knew when Bell was the Indians' bench coach, and his wife Missy, who is from the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit.

"I really like Buddy Bell," Riske said. "He is like the No. 1 reason why I signed with Kansas City. I enjoyed the guy in Cleveland and the way he went about things, how he was with players. I really like him as a person, too. Then, going back to be close to my wife's family, that makes it real convenient."

With Riske and Dotel at the end of the bullpen, the Royals should drastically reduce the 31 blown saves they had last season.

"Cut those in half and the Royals had a pretty good year," Riske said.

Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.