Joe Ryan Learns Cutter At Chance Meeting
Hunter Wood was looking for a pregame throwing partner as he started a May rehab assignment for high Class A Charlotte.
Joe Ryan, just promoted from low Class A Bowling Green, was as well.
So Wood, who has since been traded to the Indians, and Ryan, a 2018 seventh-round pick, paired off.
And the serendipitous meeting has paid off.
"We were just playing regular catch, and towards the end of catch we always throw our offspeed stuff and flip a couple up there,’’ Wood said. "He threw me a couple sliders, and told me he’d been working on it because he was just fastball dominant.
"I threw him my cutter a couple times, and he seemed to really like it. So I showed him how I was holding it (like an off-center four-seam fastball) and what I was doing with it. I let him throw it to me a couple times, and it was filthy. I was like, 'I think you’ve got something here if you keep working on it.' "
Ryan was doing pretty well already, and the cutter gave him another weapon in a repertoire topped by a 91-95 mph fastball he torments hitters with given the deception from his three-quarters arm slot, plus a curveball and a changeup.
The 23-year-old Ryan has made the most of his first full season while adapting to the more rigorous schedule.
At two Class A stops, Ryan recorded a 2.03 ERA through 97.1 innings. He had struck out 142 (to rank second in the minors) and walked 23.
Ryan told Charlotte radio broadcaster John Vittas that he has a simple philosophy, borrowed from one of the game’s greats.
"I think it’s just confidence in my pitches,’’ Ryan said. "I’m just trying to fill up the zone. I’m not really looking for strikeouts . . . It’s justthrowing strikes and giving your defense a chance to work. Sometimes you get swings and misses.’’
Ryan grew up in Marin County, Calif., with other interests besides baseball—including water polo—and had a bit of a circuitous path to pro ball, transferring from Cal State Northridge, where injuries had limited his opportunity, to Division II Cal State Stanislaus.
— In a move aimed at clearing roster space going forward, the Rays traded Wood and third baseman Christian Arroyo, their primary return in the 2017 Evan Longoria trade with the Giants, to Cleveland for low Class A outfielder Ruben Cardenas and $250,000 of international bonus pool money.
Both Wood and Arroyo will be out of options in 2020 and likely wouldn’t have made the Rays' roster.
— Reliever Ian Gibaut had an eventful couple midseason weeks, making his season debut after a spring lat strain, being called up for his big league debut, then designated for assignment to clear roster space, and then traded to the Rangers.