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