New team suits former first-rounder Schmidt

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Left-hander Nick Schmidt has a healthy arm and a bright outlook with the Rockies -- something he never had while with the Padres.

San Diego selected Schmidt 23rd overall out of the University of Arkansas in the First-Year Player Draft. But Schmidt missed the entire 2008 season because of Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow, and never gained full health while with the Padres.

The Rockies acquired him after the 2011 season for closer Huston Street. Last season, Schmidt, 28, went a combined 12-6 with Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Colorado Springs, pitched a career-high 127 total innings, and could make himself a pitching option for the Rox.

"With the Padres, I was always known as being hurt, with two surgeries," Schmidt said. "But here, last year was my first year to pitch the full season without being hurt. It's been a blessing. It's a new confidence, a new team, a new perspective. It's been awesome."

Schmidt struck out three in two innings of the Rockies' intrasquad game Friday. He has yet to appear in a Cactus League game and is not considered a prime candidate to make the team out of Spring Training, but nonetheless will have a chance to impress his new team.

He's in a much better place than he was in 2011, when he came close to retirement.

"In the spring of 2011, I hurt my shoulder, came off the field and had to get surgery again," Schmidt said. "I told the Padres I was just going to retire. I went and had the surgery and it was supposed to be a labrum and I would be out the full year. Well, they went in and it was nothing, just a cleanup surgery. The doctor said, 'You are going to be good in six weeks to start throwing again.' I said, 'Well, I'll try.' Since then it's been awesome.

"I'm living for Christ now. It really turned my life around, put things into perspective about how important it is to help others around you, not just focus on yourself. Build others up and help others.

"My wife [Jill] volunteers at a women's clinic, pregnancy crisis center, and I got involved with that with her. We've done a lot of little things, nothing to boast about me. It's just helping."

Even if the new health and a new attitude doesn't get him to the Majors, Schmidt is happier and more content.

"I had that conversation with them when all that was going down," he said. "I told them, 'Look, this isn't the way I planned it. There's stuff you can't control.' Through that they told me, 'We don't have any regrets.' That made me feel a lot better. There is when I was going though being hurt and not doing anything. Well, it is what it is. It's definitely who I am today, made me stronger. I'm thankful for it. I wouldn't wish it upon anybody, but it definitely made me a stronger person. "Before, my focus was, 'How can I throw where my arm doesn't hurt?' Now I can focus on putting the ball where it needs to be and make those adjustments.

"If it happens, it happens. If not, I'm having fun, enjoying it."