Ryan Merritt Meets The Challenge
CLEVELAND—Lefthander Ryan Merritt, the surprise hero for the Indians in their pennant-clinching 3-0 victory against the Blue Jays in Game Five of the American League Championship Series, was not a surprise to those who know him best.
"From his first appearance in 2011 in the (Rookie-level) Arizona League, Ryan showed an uncanny ability to put the baseball where he wants it,” farm director Carter Hawkins said, "and he can do so with his entire arsenal.”
That’s exactly what Merritt did as the emergency starter for the Indians in the ALCS.
"I know they were counting on me,” said Merritt, 24. "I just went out there and pitched and trusted my team.”
In just the second major league start of his career, Merritt pitched 4.1 innings, holding a powerful Toronto lineup scoreless on two hits, with three strikeouts and no walks.
"As we saw (that) night, he doesn’t back down from a challenge and shows the makeup to just be himself out there, which is all we can ask,” Hawkins said.
Merritt, a 16th-round pick in 2011 from McLennan (Texas) CC, posted good but not great numbers in 24 starts at Triple-A Columbus this year. He went 11-8, 3.70 with 92 strikeouts in 143.1 innings. During the season he made one start in four appearances with the Indians and was not overwhelmed in any of them.
Counting the regular season and the ALCS, Merritt recorded a 1.17 ERA in 15.1 innings in five big league appearances. He had nine strikeouts and no walks.
In six minor league seasons Merritt has a record of 45-31 with a 3.39 ERA. Known for his outstanding control, he has averaged 1.4 walks per nine innings for his career.
"For the coaches who have worked with him over the last six years, it’s no surprise that he was able to stay composed and compete on one of the biggest stages in our game,” Hawkins said.
• Center fielder Tyler Naquin led American League rookies in slugging percentage (.514) and finished second in average (.296) among those with 300 plate appearances.
Erik Gonzalez Emerges As Utility Infielder
A pair of out-of-options combatants vied for the Indians' utility job, with Gonzalez outlasting the more experienced Gio Urshela.
• The Indians outrighted lefthander T.J. House to Triple-A Columbus at the end of the season after he cleared waivers. He is eligible for minor league free agency.