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Ex-high school phenom Schuster looks to make jump from Class A to majors with Padres

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PEORIA, Ariz. - Four years later, Patrick Schuster remains best known for throwing four consecutive no-hitters in high school.

That could change this spring if Schuster can become one of the few Rule 5 draft success stories. But like the no-hitter streak, Schuster must do something most improbable: make the San Diego Padres' 25-man roster despite having never pitched above Class A.

Schuster realizes the task is daunting. The lanky, 23-year-old left-hander also knows he has one important guy in his corner: Padres general manager Josh Byrnes.

"I guess you've got to really believe in someone to draft him twice," Schuster said. "It's really cool to be back with him again."

Schuster was fresh off setting a Florida high school record with four straight no-hitters in 2009 when Byrnes, then GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks, selected the New Port Richey native in the 13th round of the draft.

Byrnes took another stab at Schuster in his new job in December, when he sent right-hander Anthony Bass to Houston in exchange for the first selection the Rule 5 draft, the December draft for players left off 40-man rosters.

Only nine players were selected this year. The reason is Rule 5 selections must stay on the 25-man roster of their new team the entire season or be offered back to their old club.

Only six of the 15 players selected last year stayed with the teams that drafted them.

If he makes the Padres, Schuster will most likely be as a bullpen specialist against left-handed hitters.

"I think Josh drafted me the first time with the Diamondbacks with all intentions of having me be a lefty specialist," Schuster said. "I don't have a problem with that. I love pitching to lefties."

Schuster will have to make a large leap to get there. He struggled in his first full season for high-Class A Visalia in the California League in 2012 with a 4.90 ERA and 32 walks in 64 innings.

But he rebounded last season for the same team, lowering his ERA to 1.83 with 45 strikeouts and 18 walks in 44 innings.

"I went in there scared the first year," Schuster said. "I tried to nibble the plate too much. I walked too many guys.

"I think the first half of last year I had maybe five walks, which really helped," he said. "I wasn't scared to pitch to contact last year. And I'm a groundball pitcher."

But now Schuster will have to keep that confidence against big league hitters.

"The first couple batters is going to be different for me," Schuster said. "I pitched to a couple rehab hitters and stuff, but not back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I'm going to throw strikes and pitch to contact."

Padres manager Bud Black indicated he's been impressed with Schuster in the first week of camp.

"It's a deceptive delivery from sidearm," Black said Saturday. "The ball has good action to it. The breaking ball has a nice spin. He can spin a breaking ball. I can see where our scouts and our scouting reports on Patrick were very favourable."

Schuster is easy going with the media, something he learned when an onslaught of reporters from national outlets descended on his high school during his no-hitter streak.

"It was a really fun ride, but I was glad it was over," Schuster said. "I wasn't real fond of people following me during school with a camera. It was nuts.

"But I'm really comfortable with the media now," he added. "I don't think a lot of kids my age are as mature as I am. And I think that's got a lot to do with it."

He'll need that maturity to make the jump from Class A to the majors. But he has an early fan in catcher Yasmani Grandal, who chuckled while watching video of him facing minor league lefties.

"The video I saw he looked great, just making lefties look really dumb," Grandal said. "And if you make me laugh while I watch TV that means he's pretty good. I think he has great stuff. I think at some point he could be up here."

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