Stanislaus State alumnus Joe Ryan made his Major League Baseball debut for the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday in a start against the Chicago Cubs. Ryan, who pitched for the Warriors in 2018, became only the third Stan State baseball player in history to play at the major league level, joining Rusty Kuntz and Steve Andrade.
Ryan was promoted to the Twins' big league team as part of September call-ups, which is when major league teams expand their roster from 26 players to 28 for the final month of the regular season.
Not only did Ryan find himself on the Twins roster to kick off the month of September, but he was immediately thrown into the team's starting rotation, which has struggled mightily throughout the year. The Minnesota rotation was also in desperate need of a starting arm after their ace, Kenta Maeda, had to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Although Ryan had never appeared at the major league level before Wednesday and was promoted to fill a significant role in Minnesota, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli made a note of how calm and confident Ryan looked before his big start, warming up in the outfield to Jimi Hendrix (his music of choice) playing on the loudspeakers throughout Minneapolis' Target Field.
Ryan's cool pregame demeanor directly translated to the actual game as he only needed 20 pitches to retire the first six Cubs hitters in order.
The most notable out recorded by Ryan between his first two innings was his strikeout of Chicago third baseman Patrick Wisdom. Wisdom had worked a commanding 3-0 count against Ryan, but the Stan State alumnus battled back to punch him out swinging on a low-90's fastball with notable late break. Wisdom was visibly angry after the plate appearance, slamming his bat into the dirt and emphatically throwing his helmet into the dugout.
Baldelli spoke about Ryan's ability to frustrate opposing hitters during his pregame media availability.
"The fastball that he brings to the table is a very unique pitch. Hitters just consistently do not get good looks and swings against this pitch," Baldelli said. "I think that’s obviously his biggest strength, but his other pitches play off that pitch well."
Cubs manager David Ross shared similar thoughts after the game.
“The fastball looked like guys couldn’t see it,” Ross said. "There were a lot of just guys swinging through the fastball. It looked like something that’s hard to pick up."
Ryan's big league debut did not come without struggles, though.
In the third inning, Ryan surrendered a walk and a double to the first two batters he faced. Cubs first baseman Frank Schwindel proceeded to bring in both runners with one swing of the bat, blasting a 3-2 fastball deep into the left field bleachers at Target Field, making it a 3-0 ballgame. Ryan would eventually be able to get out of the inning without further damage.
Frank's the name, tanks are the game. pic.twitter.com/na5U6HPskt— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 2, 2021
Ryan was able to recover from the rough third inning by tossing two more 1-2-3 innings. After completing his fifth inning of work, Ryan's pitch count was at 89 and he was informed in the dugout by Baldelli that his night was over.
Ryan's final line for his MLB debut: five innings, three hits, three runs (all earned), one walk and five strikeouts. He would also be given the loss as the Twins offense would be shut down by Cubs pitching, dropping the game by a score of 3-0.
While his debut came in a losing effort, Ryan said that it didn't take away from the experience of pitching in the MLB for the very first time.
"I was executing my pitches. I mis-executed a little bit too much in the third and got into some not-so-great counts... But it was amazing. It was a great experience. I loved it," Ryan said.
Baldelli was also happy with what he saw from Ryan throughout the night.
“Joe Ryan had a very nice debut and his competitiveness factor level was very high,” Baldelli said at his postgame presser. “I really liked the way he handled himself out on the mound. He was composed. He pitched well. We got a chance to see some of the things that he can do."
Ryan had over 60 family and friends in attendance for his debut, which he said helped bring tons of energy to the stadium.
Ryan's mother, Terry, was among those in attendance and spoke to Bally Sports North about the special day.
"It's surreal [and] it's exciting," she said. "Words can't describe how I'm feeling."
Ryan is expected to stay in the Twins starting rotation through the end of the year, with his next start scheduled for Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians.