The closer Ryan Eades gets to the major leagues, the more he looks like he belongs there.
“I wouldn’t say I was losing confidence, but I was at Double-A for a long time and you worry a lot about moving up, about guys coming up from below,” said Eades, the Twins’ second-round pick out of Louisiana State in 2013. “At some point last year, I just stopped worrying about everything but the present moment. It made a big difference.”
In danger of being labeled a bust after four mediocre, walk-filled seasons as a starter, Eades became a tweener in 2017. The now-27-year-old righthander would make about one start a month but would mostly work out of the bullpen. And on July 4 last year, with his career stalled and his ERA a depressing 5.28 at Double-A Chattanooga, Eades tried a new changeup grip, giving it more sink and a willingness to throw it more often. The change seemed to have an unexpected impact on his other pitches, too.
“I was throwing my slider for strikes more than I ever had,” Eades said. “I don’t know what caused it, but it felt really good. And it gave me a lot of confidence.”
From that point on, Eades was a new pitcher. He struck out 34 batters in 30 innings, walked only five, didn’t allow a home run and posted an 0.89 ERA. He was promoted to Triple-A Rochester on August 11, made three short starts and didn’t allow an earned run in any of them, while also pitching in the eight or ninth innings out of the bullpen, when needed.
The sudden surge earned him an invitation to the Twins’ big league camp, where he made a strong case for his first major league callup this summer. Eades allowed only one run—a solo home run by Blue Jays first baseman Rowdy Tellez—in seven spring appearances.
“Ryan embraced a pretty significant change with his breaking ball and utilizing it differently,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer. “And then he showed it again this spring. He’s a guy we certainly could see [in Minnesota] this year.”