The book types change from time to time.
The one sitting in his locker at the visiting clubhouse Friday afternoon in Philadelphia was a fiction piece titled, "American Assassin."
"Maybe it's because I didn't go to college. I'm always trying to prove to people that I'm smart, so I try to learn about things and read about certain topics," Scott Rice said. "This one's fiction, so my next one (book) will be non-fiction."
Rice's career to this point is certainly an inspirational tale. The 31-year-old left-handed reliever is enjoying his rookie season in the majors as a member of the New York Mets.
After 14 years in the minors, including three separate stints in the independent Atlantic League, Rice compiled a 1.88 ERA in 15 games in his big-league debut in the month of April. With a scoreless third of an inning Saturday against the Phillies, the 6-foot, 6-inch pitcher improved his ERA to 4.70 and extended his major-league lead in appearances to 41. A former York Revolution reliever, Rice has struck out 24 batters in 302/3 innings for the Mets.
"Here guys don't swing at bad pitches, and they don't miss when we (pitchers) miss," Rice said of the difference in playing in the majors. "Plus, there's a lot of guys that are very good here and a lot of guys at triple-A who are just as good. But overall it's going out and grinding everyday is what separates the guys."
Coming to York: A California native, Rice knows all about grinding.
He first came to the Atlantic League in 2008 after being cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of spring training.
Following seven appearances with the Long Island Ducks, a torn flexor tendon led to surgery, which cut his 2008 season short. Having washed out as a starter in the Baltimore Orioles' farm system, Rice found himself 10 years into the pro game dealing with the first serious injury of his career. At the age of 26, Rice admits there were thoughts of retirement.
"A little bit of it crossed my mind just when I was rehabbing, because my arm strength didn't come back right away," he said. "But for the most part, no. I've always had the support of my parents and my wife and everyone behind me. Only I know what I have inside me. As long as I feel that I have the ability and I want to do it, then I'll go do it."
Rice returned to the Atlantic League a year later with the Newark Bears before being picked up by the San Diego Padres. He came to York in 2011 following a spring training release from the Chicago Cubs and a phone call from Andy Etchebarren, then York's manager and Rice's old coach when he was making up his way up through the Orioles' farm system.
"I got a call from 'Etch' and he said 'hey, I know what you can do. I know you're not gonna be here (in York) long. I know you can play at the major-league level and I want you to stop here until you get back on your feet,'" Rice said.
Rice posted a 1-0 record and 2.45 ERA in 15 relief appearances for York when the Los Angeles Dodgers came calling for his services in June that season.
Rice is the fourth player to make it to the majors after suiting up for York. Of that group, he's the one who has made the biggest mark. Outfielder Tike Redman played in seven games for York at the start of the 2007 season and went on to play in 40 games that year for the Orioles. Reliever Justin Hampson made 11 appearances for the Revs in 2010 and later pitched in 13 games for the Mets last season. And starting pitcher Shawn Hill began the 2012 season with the Revs before finishing the year with one relief appearance for the Toronto Blue Jays. Both Hampson (Mets) and Hill (Detroit Tigers) are currently pitching at the triple-A level for separate organizations.
Better hitter? Dennis Rice didn't want Scott, one of his four children, to be a pitcher.
"I never really wanted him to pitch. I pitched when I was young and was getting cortisone shots in my arm when I was 12 years old," said Dennis Rice, who was a shortstop at the University of Southern California in 1970.
Plus, Scott Rice's high school coach, Dan Maye, originally thought Rice would end up being a better hitter. After all, Rice batted .398 with nine homers in 83 plate appearances his senior season at Royal (Calif.) High School in 1999.
"His junior year he really struggled with his (pitch) control," said Maye, who has more than 400 victories in his 24 seasons at Royal. "But I still remember when he played in a tournament the summer after his junior year."
It would be in the championship game at that showcase event when scouts began to take notice of Rice. No one is really sure how many innings he pitched that day -- Maye thinks it was seven, Rice believes it was five. Either way, Rice didn't give up a hit while working with a curveball and a 92 mph fastball.
He went on to post a 3.79 ERA with 80 strikeouts and 45 walks in 61 innings in his senior year at Royal, which has had 16 players drafted by major-league organizations. Rice would be the 44th overall draft pick in 1999, a first-round selection by the Orioles.
Fighting for a job: Fourteen years later, Rice's fastball still tops out around 92 mph. It's his off-speed repertoire of sinkers, sliders and splitters that have finally gotten him to the majors.
"That's always been my issue, is I've always thrown a ball that I could throw straight," he said. "So I've kind of just been trying to figure out how to harness the movement. And with that I started picking up the splitter as my third (off-speed) pitch. It's probably the pitch that's gotten me here (to the majors) because it gave me another weapon to use."
Rice has been attempting to regain his April form in recent weeks. Since May 1, he has a 7.16 ERA in 26 appearances. His 22 walks are also the second-most among relievers in the majors this season (through Saturday). The struggles are just examples of how Rice is still trying to lock down a job in the majors.
"I think you can't ever be content with it. Even when you're in triple-A or wherever you are, you're always working," he said. "You never have job security. I think that's what keeps people going and keeps people grinding."
With the Mets clinging to a 4-3 lead over the Phillies on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park, Rice tossed a perfect seventh inning by striking out Ryan Howard and Dominic Brown before covering the first-base bag in time for the final out of the frame when Ben Revere grounded out to first.
The performance was just another impressive outing in a long and encouraging career that Rice could, perhaps, craft into a non-fiction book one day.
"I haven't given that much thought," he said. "Right now at the moment I'm trying to get Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and those guys out tonight."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.