Hartman working hard to make name for himself

Type the name in an internet search and a professional hockey winger appears, a former first-round draft pick who plays for the Minnesota Wild.

If you want the Ryan Hartman who’s a pitcher in the Orioles organization, the word “baseball” is required to distinguish the two. Otherwise, he’s buried beneath the National Hockey League results.

“I actually messaged him this off-season,” said the Orioles’ Hartman, claimed off waivers last week from the Astros and optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

“I wanted to do a jersey swap with him. I’m from Anaheim, right next to the Ducks, and they (Wild) were playing the Ducks right before spring training. He said he was in, but the protocols didn’t work with him to see me. But yes, my mom’s been saying that. She says, ‘It’s so upsetting. Every time I Google your name to look something up, that guy pops up.’ You have to write ‘baseball’ to get my information.”

At least there haven’t been any mix-ups with their mail.

“The only thing is just Twitter when someone will write ‘Ryan Hartman’ and ask, ‘Isn’t he like the forward wing for Minnesota or something.’”

Hartman has a goal that doesn’t require skates and a hockey stick. He wants to get back to the majors.

The taste was more of a tiny sip. One game consisting of 2 1/3 innings against the Orioles, coincidentally, on June 30 in Houston.

Hartman first had to be placed on a five-day quarantine while undergoing the intake process, allowing him to join the Tides in Jacksonville but removing him from the 40-man roster. He needed two negative COVID-19 tests.

The Astros decided Hartman would be designated for assignment July 25 to make room for Austin Pruitt, reinstated from the 60-day injured list. The Orioles interrupted trade deadline talks to claim him.

“First of all, I was excited that a team actually was able to pick me up,” he said. “I love the Astros. They took a chance with me. But I just saw the opportunities dwindle away slowly as arms were just getting better in that organization. So, when I got picked up by the Orioles, it was cool, because I know Thomas Eshelman, so I was like, at least I have a familiar face. And I know Holty (Chris Holt) as a pitching coach. So, I was excited that I was going to a team that I was actually going to have a familiar face and I wasn’t starting completely over.”

Camden Yards daytime.jpgOrioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is familiar with Hartman, drafting him in the ninth round in 2016 from Tennessee Wesleyan University. Their interactions were brief, but an impression was made.

“New draft guys, you just get a couple words here and there and you see him every once in a while, but I don’t think I was high enough on a level to run into him more,” Hartman said. “In spring training that probably would have been the only area where I would have run into him.”

Hartman is much more familiar with Holt, hired away from the Astros in 2018 as the Orioles’ minor league pitching coordinator, promoted to director of pitching last summer and also becoming pitching coach this season.

“He’s just amazing. He’s like a pitching ninja doctor, mixing everything,” Hartman said.

“He can always help you find that one little thing that clicks. I don’t even know how to explain it, but that man can dissect every little thing, windup and the release, and help you to become the best pitcher you can be. When I first got drafted by the Astros, two or three weeks in we were already getting broken down on the whole Edgerton and TrackMan and spin rate and everything, so ever since 2016 that’s kind of what I’ve been taught and showed, and tried to make myself better off that information.

“I’m really, really familiar with it. It’s nice to know he’s here and he’s implementing it, so it’s not like I have to try to pitch without it.”

Hartman, who turned 27 in April, owns a 4.01 ERA and 1.260 WHIP in five minor league seasons and has struck out 457 batters in 453 1/3 innings. His debut game in the majors featured strikeouts of Ryan Mountcastle and Trey Mancini and an Austin Hays solo home run.

“To be honest with you, I just remember striking out Mountcastle and I don’t even remember who I gave up the homer to because I was just watching it,” Hartman said. “I keep saying I’m pretty sure it was (Hays). But it was just, everything was crazy that day. It was just, get the first hitter out and throw my first strike, and it just so happened to be Mountcastle, so that’s going to stick with me forever.

“It’s going to be crazy to see all the guys. I highly doubt they remember me.”

Mountcastle admitted that he didn’t recall his at-bat against Hartman.

“Oh man, that’s a while ago. Probably not, unfortunately,” he said, laughing.

“It’s probably because I struck out. If I hit a home run then maybe I’d remember it, but a strikeout, I try to forget those.”

Hartman was optioned the following day. He provided a fresh arm for a bullpen taxed from short starts. Sound familiar?

“I think they just needed guys to cover innings, and I was that guy and I had zero problem with it,” he said.

“I strived to make it to the big leagues and that’s what I did. I made it. It was like a dream come true for me.”

The dream didn’t shatter after the Astros designated him.

A high-speed motion camera won’t measure how Hartman spun a situation.

“It’s baseball,” he said. “I’ve always had that mindset. It could be over in a second, whether it’s an injury or someone else coming up and replacing you. I’ve always had that mindset my whole career, so getting DFA’d wasn’t like a stab or anything. It was just kind of like, ‘You know what, man? You can do it, you can pitch in the big leagues. Just go down, show that you can keep pitching and get even better so you can get up quicker.’ So, it wasn’t really like a knock on me. I got a taste and I want to get back even quicker.”

Whether as a starter or reliever. He’s done both in the minors, including 12 starts with Triple-A Sugar Land this summer. And the four-pitch mix of fastball, curveball, changeup and cutter/slider make him a consideration for a rotation.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love starting, but I just need the ball in my hand. Doesn’t matter what inning it is,” he said.

“Still working on every pitch. I think this year has been a big turnaround for me with my whole repertoire. I’m actually able to throw more things where I want to. Before it was like, I didn’t have the curveball today and the slider’s 50-50, but now it’s like, I’ll have the curveball with the slider and the fastball’s always there. I’ll have all four pitches during an outing instead of the usual fastball/changeup and then the show-me curveball and show-me slider.

“That’s something analytics have helped me with. It took me a while, but finally I was able to, and it was the year I made my debut.”

The Orioles have used 52 players this season and are barreling toward the club record of 58 in 2019. Hartman knows an opportunity when he sees one.

“It sucks to see a team struggle like the Orioles are, but I just hope to be able to go in, get my opportunity and keep the runs to a minimum to give the team its best chance to win,” he said.

“It only took me one year of seeing a rebuild (in Houston) before they won the World Series.”

Maybe an item worth including on his Wikipedia page.

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