Joe Ryan ready to make MLB debut for Twins

Ryan debuts at Target Field on Wednesday against the Cubs. He joined the Twins in the Nelson Cruz trade in July and pitched for Team USA in the Olympics.

With the news that Joe Ryan will get his big league call-up and make his MLB debut Wednesday at Target Field against the Cubs, we’ve re-published an excerpt from a recent 5 Thoughts column focused on the newest Twins pitcher.

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Joe Ryan was at Target Field on Sunday to show off his new silver medal, throw his first Twins bullpen, and get acclimated to life in a new organization before joining the St. Paul Saints later this week. He joined “Twins Today,” and I got a chance to ask him about his Olympics experience.

“Usually I’m pretty good at blanking everything out and just trying to get into that flow state of being locked in on the game and focused on each pitch,” Ryan told me. “The first game was the most nervous or excited – whatever the emotions were I didn’t really know, I could definitely feel that intensity though in the air. That was an amazing experience and I’m glad I had that. … It was amazing to get to put on that jersey. That’s just a dream to wear ‘USA’ across your chest,” Ryan said.

It was in a food room room in Tokyo, Japan, right around 7 a.m. local time, and the MLB trade deadline had come and gone overnight for the players on Team USA, who had landed in Japan the day before and would later go on to win the silver medal at these Games. Eric Filia, an outfield prospect in the Mariners organization walked up to a pair of Rays minor league pitchers, Shane Baz and Joe Ryan, and told them that their team had just traded for Nelson Cruz.

The Tokyo roommates looked at each other and decided, “Oh, it’s probably one of us,” headed to Minnesota in the deal. Ryan looked down at his phone and saw a missed call from his GM, and that must have been a fairly clear sign.

Over the next 3 weeks, Ryan pitched well in his 10 innings for Team USA, helping to get them to the medal game against host Japan. After the Games, he and Baz came back to the U.S. and they got right back on their play-catch routine.

“We were on the same schedule,” Ryan said. “So we were waking up at 3 a.m. and like, ‘All right, let’s go get ready and go throw.’”

After a couple days in Durham, he packed up his apartment, shipped his car to St. Paul, traveled to Minnesota – with 5 bags because he’s picking up his life and moving to a new state and new organization. He pitched a bullpen session at Target Field on Sunday and is scheduled to make his Triple-A Saints debut sometime this week.

We wrote about Ryan’s minor league performance in a recent newsletter so I won’t belabor the point here. He’s got a 3.63 ERA with Triple-A Durham and at 75:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

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I asked ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza, who called the baseball and softball games in Tokyo, for her first-hand scouting report on Ryan.

“He’s got an elevated fastball – which is all the rave, I get it – but he has this great understanding of how to utilize that pitch, his four-seam at the top of the zone,” Mendoza said. “And then the breaking ball off of it. I think his best pitch is actually his changeup.”

“I know I’m watching him against South Korea ... but these are teams that understand contact, they know how to put the ball in play, which by the way doesn’t happen in Major League Baseball,” Mendoza said. “Contact is at a premium. So to have someone that is getting swings and misses on a pitch against teams and countries that really at the core of them understand contact, that says a lot about Joe Ryan’s changeup.”

Mendoza also shared with us an off-the-mound scouting report of the new pitcher in the Twins organization.

“He’s a Bay-area guy,” she said. “He surfs, he mountain bikes. His dad was like one of the founders of mountain biking. He’s a rock climber. He played water polo. ... Joe Ryan has this easy chill personality. And he just totally understands where he needs to be, his place, great work ethic. Someone that’s really going to be fun for this organization.”

As a postscript, Ryan mentioned to me that he knows there’s not much surfing in Minnesota. But he’s excited about all the greenery and the many lakes to explore. He mentioned wake surfing and fishing as two of the things he’s hoping to get to do. “If anyone has any recommendations in the area I’d love to hear all about it, and I’m sure I’ll get a whole list of things.”


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