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'Calm in an important situation': Pirates relief pitcher Ryder Ryan was impressive in getting his first MLB win

Even though he was excited to make his debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates after making the Opening Day roster, Ryder Ryan ended up having to wait and watch during a 12-inning game in the season opener at Miami.

After making the Opening Day roster, Ryder Ryan was thrilled to make his Pittsburgh Pirates debut. Instead, he watched and waited through a 12-inning game in the season opener at Miami.

When Ryan received the bullpen call in the fifth inning against the Marlins on Friday night, the 28-year-old right-hander was eager and prepared to go.

Ryan allowed one hit and got two strikeouts in 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief to earn the first win of his major league career in the Pirates’ 7-2 win over the Marlins at loanDepot park.

“It feels great,” Ryan said on the SportsNet Pittsburgh postgame show. “It’s awesome to get your first win out of the way.”

The Pirates were leading, 4-1, in the fifth inning when Ryan took over with runners on first and third with one out after Pirates starter Martin Perez gave up a double to Josh Bell and Gold Glove third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes made an errant throw to first.

That didn’t seem to affect Ryan, who struck out Bryan De La Cruz with a 2-2 sinker on the inside corner then fanned Jazz Chisholm Jr. with a 95-mph four-seam fastball to escape the jam, celebrating by pumping his fists while walking off the mound. In the sixth, Ryan gave up a leadoff single to Tim Anderson but got Avisail Garcia to hit into a 6-4-3 double play and Jonah Bride to ground out to third.

“He came in and did exactly what we needed him to do,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “He put the ball on the ground and ended up getting two punchouts. For a guy that’s only had one other big league appearance, he looked calm in a crucial spot.”

That made Ryan’s performance even more remarkable. He made his major league debut for the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 11, recording two strikeouts and allowing one walk in the eighth inning of a 9-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Ryan signed a minor league contract with the Pirates and went to spring training as a non-roster invitee. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder had 10 strikeouts against four walks in eight Grapefruit League appearances, holding hitters to a .194 batting average. When setup man Colin Holderman lost 15 pounds due to an illness, the Pirates placed him on the 15-day injured list and kept Ryan.

“We like the sinker. That’s the thing,” Shelton told SNP during an in-game interview on Monday. “We wanted a sinker guy in our bullpen, and Ryder has done that. He has that sneaky ability to really be effective. He kind of just went under the radar, threw in eight games and really did a nice job.”

Shelton said his conversation informing Ryan that he’d made the team “was one of the cooler ones” because of his reaction. Shelton said he thought Ryan might have been expecting bad news.

“You could see the emotion there. That hit me a little bit,” Shelton said. “I think he was expecting the next part of the conversation, something like, ‘During the year, you’re going to help us. I was like, ‘Hey, you made the team.’ The first time you hear that, all the hard work, thinking about his wife and kids, the family. It was emotional for him and it made me emotional.”

When Ryan pitched for the Pirates for the first time, he was calm, composed, and efficient. He faced five batters and threw 18 of his 22 pitches for strikes. He used his sinker and slider to get six called strikes and whiffs, and three balls in play. His manager, Shelton, mentioned how Ryan used his sinker and slider to confuse the Marlins hitters and get unusual swings.

Ryan commented that his heart rate was high during his first MLB game, but it was better during his second game. He felt great and was able to do what he does best, which is throwing the ball in the strike zone.

Josh Fleming then pitched for three innings to secure the win, and Ryan finally got his first win in the big leagues. He was drafted in the 30th round by Cleveland in 2016, and after being traded twice, he mainly played in the minor leagues despite originally being a first and third baseman in college at North Carolina.

He was traded to the New York Mets for Jay Bruce in August 2017 and later to the Texas Rangers to complete the Todd Frazier trade. In 2022, Ryan signed a minor league contract with the Mariners before joining the Pirates as a long shot.

Ryan expressed that it has been an amazing experience and the opportunity he has been working hard for has finally arrived. He is eager to get started and make the most of it.

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