O's minor league hurler Ryan Long on fanning Mike Trout and facing Team USA, Mexico in WBC

O’s minor league right-hander Ryan Long was drafted by the club in round 17 of 2021 out of a Div. 3 school. He has pitched in 26 pro games covering 79 2/3 innings, never pitching beyond Low Single-A Delmarva, where he went 7-5 with a 3.10 ERA last year.

And then recently there he was pitching on national television for Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic. He faced and got out some of the top hitters in Major League Baseball. He struck out Mike Trout. Yep, the nine-time Silver Slugger and three-time Most Valuable Player. That Mike Trout. By a kid who was with Delmarva last season.

For someone yet to pitch at the High-A, Double-A or Triple-A levels, it was quite the moment when he took the mound in the fourth inning on March 11 in a game where Team USA would go on to win, 6-2.

This was not the Delmarva Shorebirds against the Salem Red Sox or the Fredericksburg Nationals.

In two WBC games, Long posted an ERA of 2.25. Over four innings he allowed five hits and one run with no walks and two strikeouts. His fastball averaged 94.1 mph against Team USA and topped at 96.7 mph.

Long’s mom and her parents were born in England and his mom is a UK citizen and that is how he qualified for the Great Britain roster. He noticed that the team played in a WBC qualifier last fall in Germany and made the field. Then his college coach at Pomona-Pitzer in California made a contact to get the team to consider using Long in the WBC. He heard in January he was on a preliminary roster. He heard in February that he was on the final roster and would pitch for the team. And a few weeks ago, there he was on the mound facing Trout and his United States teammates.

He came on with two on and one out in the fourth and got Nolan Arenada to pop out. He then made a mistake with a changeup that stayed up too much and Kyle Schwarber hit a three-run homer. He steadied himself to get Kyle Tucker to end the frame. In the next inning, he got J.T. Realmuto and Jeff McNeil out before Mookie Betts singled and then Trout lost his eight-pitch battle with Long, 23, swinging and missing to end the sequence on a 94.3 mph four-seamer.

Take a bow kid. Wowser.

“It was, the only word I can say, is very, very surreal,” Long recalled from Sarasota, Fla., by phone this week of facing Trout and his teammates. “I tried to look at it from two angles. On the one hand I wanted to appreciate the moment and recognize that this was a step in my baseball career that really surpassed anything. I wanted to take in the moment early in the game and before the game and appreciate what playing in a stadium of 40,000 against that team felt like. But once I got on the mound, everything actually seemed to calm down a bit. Once I got out there, it kind of felt like any other game, but obviously I knew it wasn’t. But I realized how good that lineup was and how cool it was for me to throw against them.”

I asked Long what it meant to him to strikeout Trout?

“Yeah, I think that is probably the highlight of my baseball career to this point. I don’t know if I can replicate that,” he said “That was pretty special. That whole lineup is going from All-Star to All-Star.”

Three days after the game against Team USA, Mexico would beat Great Britain 2-1 and leave them with a 1-3 record and eliminated. But in that game, Long pitched quite well with 2 1/3 scoreless and among the players he got out where Joey Meneses and Alex Verdugo. He also got out Randy Arozarena, a player with a career .372 batting average and 1.143 OPS versus Orioles pitchers.

“That outing was great, I felt super confident in that one,” he recalled. “I felt really in control where in the USA game things were moving a bit faster than they normally do.”

So what an experience for Long, who has since returned to O’s minor league camp in Sarasota at Twin Lakes Park.

“It was unbelievable,” he said. “The whole tournament was really well done. Just all the emotion everyone has out there is very special and unique to that circumstance. I was really honored to be part of that team and represent Great Britain, a country where baseball is definitely on the rise. Special to be a part of that and contribute to a team that will help build baseball there. That was my first time ever throwing at a major league park, probably never thrown before more than 7,000 fans before. All the new experiences were great and it is something I will remember forever.”

Long throws a fastball, slider, curveball, cutter and changeup. His velocity he said bumped up a bit in velocity in the WBC, which showed his offseason training at Driveline Baseball, near his home in Seattle, paid off. That was an offseason focus, he said, to gain velocity and he has trained at Driveline the past few offseasons, which is about 40 minutes from his winter home.

Now Long can start to point toward a new season on the Baltimore farm. He doesn’t know yet where he will be assigned but after throwing 72 2/3 innings for the Shorebirds last season, allowing a .217 batting average and 1.25 WHIP, maybe he moves up to High-A Aberdeen. Last season he was used as a tandem starter throwing bulk innings, sometimes starting and sometimes coming on relief. Wherever he ends up, he will go with a renewed confidence.

“It shows me that as a pitcher I can compete and even do well against some of the better hitters in major league baseball. I don’t want to overlook minor league hitters, who are really skilled. But it gives me a boost of confidence going into this season. It shows that if I execute in the way I know I can, I can have a lot of success this year. I’m excited going into this season. Excited to keep everything going,” he said.

Click here to see Long's WBC strikeout of a future Hall of Famer and here is a tweet about his training from Driveline. 




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