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Perrotto: Ryder Ryan’s Long Ride Has Been Worth It

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Ryder Ryan

Ryder Ryan could have become angry or bitter during his nine seasons in the minor leagues. He also could have walked away from baseball in the eight years before he finally reached the major leagues.

However, the Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander has learned quite a few lessons during that much time in the minor leagues — the importance of having a pregame routine every day, good nutrition and hydration and proper sleep.

The biggest thing Ryan realized in the minor leagues, though, is it helps to be a good teammate if you want to hang around professional baseball. So that is why Ryan is still playing nearly eight years after being selected in the 30th round of the 2016 amateur draft by Cleveland from the University of North Carolina.

“You need to stay true to your own business and do what’s best to prepare yourself each day,” Ryan said. “Be a good guy in the clubhouse. Don’t be that guy that somebody doesn’t like. It goes a long way in baseball to be a good person.”

That is why Ryan is OK with becoming a “shuttle” pitcher with the Pirates this season after signing a minor-league contract last December with an invitation to major-league spring training.

Ryan parlayed a solid performance in Grapefruit League play – three earned runs allowed and 10 strikeouts in eight innings – with injuries to Pirates relievers to win a spot on the opening-day roster.

Ryan has since been on a shuttle between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. He was optioned to Indianapolis on April 9 then recalled five days later. He was sent back to Indy on April 26 and was called up again Tuesday night before a 4-3 loss to the Brewers in Milwaukee after left-hander Josh Fleming was designated for assignment.

During his three stints with the Pirates, Ryan has pitched nine times and compiled a 3.00 ERA.

Ryan said the Pirates showed consistent interest when he became a free agent last November.

“There was an opportunity, and my agent was like ‘Pirates, Pirates, sign with the Pirates,’” Ryan said with a smile. “I went with it, committed to it and I’m blessed to have an opportunity to show what I’ve got and I’m just hopeful I can stay here for the long run.”

Should Ryan get shuttled back and forth from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis a few more times this season, he says he will understand. After all, he did not make his major-league debut until last Aug. 11 with the Seattle Mariners. He pitched one scoreless inning, was sent back to Triple-A Tacoma the next day, and never got a return call to Seattle.

“To be there and experience that in front of (36,000) fans in Seattle, I had butterflies for sure,” Ryan said. “It was just one of those moments that it was like I finally got here and now you’ve got to stay here and it’s like you don’t want to leave this place because it’s so amazing.

“It was tough to go back down but I get it. It’s business and that’s part of it.”

Ryan understands the business part as the Pirates are his fifth organization. He has also been with the New York Mets and Texas Rangers and was part of Team USA’s pitching staff at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Nevertheless, it is surprising that Ryan has made it this far. Not only was he a 30th-round draft pick but appeared as a pitcher only once in two seasons at North Carolina, where he played primarily first base. However, legendary scout Bob Mayer convinced Cleveland to select Ryan as a pitcher.

Pitching runs in the family as Ryan’s younger brother River is ranked as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No. 11 prospect by Baseball America. He is presently on the injured list with Triple-A Oklahoma City.

“I always pitched in summer league, in high school and I always had a good arm,” Ryan said. “I liked pitching. I was a good hitter, too, but I thought pitching is where I should be. I worked hard and was committed to pitching, and it showed.”

And pitching got Ryan to the major leagues after a long wait.

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