L.A. Dodgers' financial woes have Outlaws, Trevecca pitcher playing waiting game

Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 11:00pm

With each passing day, Craig Stem gets more anxious.

After getting drafted in the 15th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the right-handed pitcher was ready to begin his professional career. Nearly a month later, nothing has changed.

After completing his junior year at Trevecca Nazarene, Stem is spending his summer with the Nashville Outlaws — a collegiate wood bat baseball team that plays its home games at Lipscomb’s Dugan Field.

The Donelson Christian Academy product is ready for the next step. But after initial contract talks, he has not heard back from a franchise that recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

“I am expecting them to call any day now — it has been that way for about a week or two,” Stem said before the Outlaws defeated the West Virginia Miners 11-4 on Thursday. “… Now, I’m just waiting. Every day could be the day and I am ready to go. I’m ready to get out there and get going. I am just trying to be patient and play here and try to get better every day, just wait it out.”

Stem turned down the Dodgers’ initial offer, which he “didn’t think was very fair.”

“It was significantly less than I was expecting and that most people say that I should go for,” Stem said. “… Of all my tools and everything I have at my disposal, it seems low. Even the [Dodgers] scout that I talked to agreed that it was a little low. They are just trying to save money and I understand.”

The Dodgers financial woes continue as Major League Baseball tries to wrestle away the Dodgers from owner Frank McCourt. The league believes McCourt mismanaged the team financially — and he is not helping his case. On Thursday, reports surfaced that the team had issued  to some staff members payroll checks that had bounced. 

Still, Stem says he isn’t concerned about the Dodgers’ future or how it might impact his.

“I don’t think it is going to affect me much because I am going to be in the farm system for a while,” Stem said. “I feel by the time I do make it to L.A. that it will all be handled and everything will be fine there as far as financially. I have faith that the MLB has been doing this a long time and they know what to do. They know how to handle everything and they are going to make sure that financially that the Dodgers are going to be OK.

“They are one of the most historic teams in the league. They are going to be all right. They are not going to let anything happen to the Dodgers.”

Stem, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 215-pounds, was 8-4 with a 3.93 ERA and five complete games in 13 starts for Trevecca. Prior to that, he spent two seasons at Western Kentucky.

He possesses a fastball that has been clocked at 95 miles per hour, along with a slider and changeup. He is in his second summer with the Outlaws and has a 1-0 record but a 5.24 ERA in four starts.

“His first start was a rough outing and we just talked about ability alone, you’re probably better than anybody out on the field,” Outlaws manager Brian Ryman said. “But where he lacked was his confidence and overall demeanor and command. Once we had that talk, he took his confidence along with his ability. His next start he goes out and pitches nine innings and shuts out Terre Haute. I think that is what makes him special.

“He has come a long way since last season. When he goes out and believes there is nobody better on the field, there is nobody better on the field.”

Stem was drafted a day before former Trevecca and Outlaws teammate P.J. Francescon, who was taken in the 40th round by the Chicago Cubs. Since signing a contract on June 17, Francescon has already moved out of Rookie League ball. The right-hander, who also played at Middle Tennessee State and Ravenwood High School, is now up with the Cubs’ Single-A affiliate in Peoria, Ill. He has a 4.50 ERA in two games.

“It makes me excited because if P.J. is out there doing it, it makes me confident that I can get out there and do it too,” Stem said.

And Stem believes a deal with the Dodgers will be finalized soon.

He could return to Trevecca for his senior year and try to improve his draft stock. But he doesn’t hold back that he is ready to sign a professional contract.

“I was super excited to get drafted. It is still kind of unreal to me,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what happens with it. I’m just getting impatient now, trying to be patient.”