HOUSTON -- Left-handed pitcher Brandon Mann has reached the Major Leagues for the first time, almost 16 years after being drafted by the Rays.
The Rangers called up Mann on Sunday after he spent 15 years and pitched in 342 games not only in the Minor Leagues but two years in Japan and three seasons of independent league stops at Southern Maryland, Lancaster and Fargo-Moorhead.
In his Major League debut on Sunday in a 6-1 loss to the Astros, Mann impressed, allowing one hit over 1 2/3 innings.
"It means everything," Mann said before the game. "Pretty amazing. It has been a long journey. I'm pretty excited. I always believed so. I always told myself I was a big leaguer. To keep grinding it out to get the opportunity, you have to believe that you are."
This is the Rangers' 2018 version of the Austin Bibens-Dirkx story, a professional baseball player who never gave up on his dream of making it to the Major Leagues. It's a heart-warming feel-good story, but Mann earned his way here. He pitched in 12 games at Triple-A Round Rock and had a 1.04 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP.
"As the season progressed, Brandon continued to throw the ball very well," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "The command of his fastball, command of his delivery, secondary stuff, how he was handling hitters, all our scouts felt he was a solid option."
The Rangers signed Mann, 33, to a Minor League contract this winter after assistant general manager Josh Boyd and amateur scout Casey Harvie watched him throw at Driveline Baseball, the same Seattle-area workout facility used by Timothy Lincecum.
Mann said he has been working out there for the past 2 1/2 years and it has helped increase his velocity. But he wasn't exactly in demand this winter as a Minor League free agent after going 3-8 with a 4.40 ERA in 46 games at Double-A Midland in the Athletics' organization last year.
Mann married his wife Sarah in November and he started to think seriously about his post-baseball career.
"There was a good month and a half before I got signed where we were like, 'If no teams call, are you ready to be done?'" Mann said. "I was at a point where I didn't want to go back to [independent] ball. I had done it multiple times already and I believe in my heart that I was definitely capable of pitching in the big leagues. It's crazy how it happens."
The Rangers assigned him to Round Rock and there he met Bibens-Dirkx, who spent 12 years in the Minor, independent and Winter Leagues before reaching the Major Leagues last year at the age of 32.
"His story is incredible as well," Mann said. "What he did coming up here last year was even more incredible. He's one of the guys I talked to a lot down there as well. I've learned a lot from him. Hearing his story, it gave me motivation early on in the year when I first heard it. I love the guy. He's awesome."
Sarah joined Mann in Houston on Sunday and then they are headed to Seattle. Mann is from Des Moines, just south of Seattle, and his entire family will be at Safeco Field on Tuesday, when the Rangers begin a two-game set against the Mariners.
Rangers reliever Tony Barnette is from Federal Way, another suburb south of Seattle and played against Mann in high school. Barnette has his own long road to the big leagues that included six years in Japan before making it to the Majors with the Rangers in 2016.
"It's not just a game for up-and-coming prospects," Barnette said. "It's the beauty of the game, if you can throw the ball and have hand-eye coordination, the possibilities are endless."
• The Rangers optioned left-hander pitcher Yohander Mendez to Round Rock to make room for Mann. The Rangers want Mendez to get back to starting again after being used one game in relief during the 10 days he was here.
• Pitcher Chris Martin, on the disabled list with irritation in his right forearm, has been assigned to Double-A Frisco on a medical rehabilitation assignment.
• Outfielder Carlos Tocci has also been assigned to Frisco for a rehab assignment. He has been on the disabled list since April 22 with a bruised left hip.
• The Orioles claimed infielder/outfielder Renato Nunez off waivers. The Rangers designated him for assignment on Friday when Rougned Odor was activated off the disabled list.