INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Reid couldn’t believe what he was just told: He had been traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
Dean Treanor, manager of the Indianapolis Indians, the Pirates’ top minor league team, sat Reid down in the visiting clubhouse in Columbus to tell him the news. Never mind that Reid was putting together one of the best seasons of any reliever in Triple-A, he was on his way out.
“I was a little down initially,” said Reid, a Deering High graduate. But then he realized the news was more prank than reality.
Sure Reid was leaving to make his major league debut with the Pirates.
He didn’t disappoint during a month-long stay, making his debut June 3 and going on to allow two runs over 11 innings in seven appearances with a 1.64 ERA, seven strikeouts and three walks.
If not careful, Reid could be the victim of another prank when major league rosters expand to 40 players Sept. 1.
“I would be shocked if he wasn’t called up,” Treanor said, “because he held his own up there and gave them some innings when they needed them a few times. That’s what they needed to see and his numbers came out of there good.”
A GROUNDED PITCHER
Reid’s major league debut against Atlanta proved a microcosm of what has made him successful this season: ground balls, and lots of them.
Entering with the bases loaded, Reid induced a groundout by Reed Johnson to end a threat. Reid then retired Atlanta in order on three groundouts in the next inning.
“It’s really just attacking the hitter and attacking down in the zone,” Treanor said. “If he attacks down in the zone with his sinker, he’s going to get ground balls and he’s going to get ground-ball outs. He just really came out attacking hitters this year and his numbers reflect that. His command was really down in the zone.”
At the time of his promotion, Reid had an 0.52 ERA in 20 appearances with the Indians, striking out 31 and walking nine. Reid’s groundout/airout ratio — the percentage of ground-ball outs to fly ball outs — is 2.92 this season, an increase from his 2.6 ratio last year. In his first six pro seasons Reid never had a ratio higher than 1.65.
“It’s understanding what gets people out,” Reid said. “Obviously ground balls correlate to groundouts more than balls in the air correlate to outs.”
Ironically a stress fracture in his elbow that surfaced in 2008 eventually led Reid to become more of a ground-ball pitcher. His fastball was consistently in the lower- to mid-90s but dipped to the mid-80s during his injury.
“I was struggling to compete in Double-A so I learned a two-seam (grip), trying to get some balls on the ground and that helped out,” Reid said, “especially when the velocity came back and I had trust with the two-seam. Even right now it’s a commitment pitch all the way and I need to stay committed.”
Reid said he fine-tuned his two-seam pitch during Winter League baseball in Venezuela, where he made 21 relief appearances and had a 2.05 ERA, compiling eight saves for Aguilas de Zuilia.
“I really started tinkering with (the two-seam) in situations when I needed a ground ball,” Reid said. “I still have that four-seam, but the two-seam has been the big pitch for me early in the count and getting guys swinging when I want contact.”
LEARNING AS HE GOES
At 28, Reid is one of the older players in the Indians’ clubhouse, with a handful of guys at 29. With that age, though, comes experience and knowing the importance of inducing more grounders.
“I wouldn’t have known that when I was 22 or 23,” said Reid, who played at James Madison University.
“With some of these guys it was ingrained in them with their college situations, and I didn’t necessarily look at the stats and how they play out. Now I really step back and look at the numbers, the delivery and see how I can put the ball on the ground.”
Reid, a seventh-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2006, was released after seven seasons in the organization, four with Double-A Montgomery.
He signed with Pittsburgh in November, calling the opportunity a “clean-slate idea.”
“The one thing you learn when you’re in baseball is that baseball doesn’t forget, especially organizations,” Reid said. “There were some years I scuffled, and physically scuffled with the elbow injury. They’re almost scars that don’t go away. But I can’t say anything bad about (Tampa Bay). They gave me my opportunities to show myself to other teams, so I thank them for that.”
WORKING HIS WAY BACK
Since returning from Pittsburgh, Reid has had a few rough outings with Indianapolis, allowing three runs in two of his last five outings. It’s not entirely surprising, Treanor said.
“I think a lot of that is when guys come back they put a little more pressure on themselves and say I have to do well here so I can get back,” Treanor said. “So you wind up doing things you weren’t doing before. I just want him to relax here and be that same guy.”
Even with a couple of rough outings, Reid has a 2.06 ERA and has allowed 35 hits in 48 innings.
“That’s the tough part about baseball,” Reid said. “As soon as you become satisfied or complacent, it will punch you in the face. To say I’m satisfied — I’m not in the big leagues and competing with the Pirates, but I’m competing in Triple-A. I have to get back to what was working before, maybe make some adjustments with hitters I’m facing and trust in my slider again.”
In the meantime, Reid’s time in Triple-A may be winding down, though he’s not thinking that far ahead.
“I try not to,” Reid said. “All I can control is today, which is what I have to keep reminding myself. I got my opportunity and I was ready for it.
“I want to be ready for my next opportunity.”