'Things are good': Ryan OK after comebacker

September 14th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Ryan didn’t have any time to get out of the way of the comebacker as the line drive caught him flush on his right wrist -- and judging by his reaction, he immediately thought that it was bad.

The rookie didn’t even wait for manager Rocco Baldelli or head athletic trainer Michael Salazar to make their way out of the dugout; without a word, he walked straight off the mound, down the dugout stairs and into the clubhouse, flinging aside his glove and his cap in clear frustration.

Fortunately for Ryan and the Twins, X-rays revealed no damage, and the right-hander said postgame that he felt more stiffness than pain from the contusion following his exit from the sixth inning of another dominant start. Danny Coulombe allowed a seventh-inning rally as part of Minnesota’s 3-1 loss to Cleveland in the first half of a Tuesday doubleheader at Target Field.

“I'm fine,” Ryan said. “I don't know, I should have handled that a little better. I got hit in the wrist and was definitely a little shocked. I went to go pick it up with my right hand and it didn't go as smoothly as I wanted it to, so I was kind of like, 'All right, probably not going to pitch any more today, so I should probably go inside.'"

Though it initially appeared as though Ryan might have been the latest in the series of injuries that played no small role in pushing the Twins to mathematical elimination from the playoffs with the loss, he attributed his strong initial reaction to shock more than pain and hopes he’ll be able to pitch again this season following some treatment.

"I was kind of excited,” he said. “I was feeling good. I wanted to finish that game and go the seven there. Obviously annoying to come out like that. Yeah. I'm feeling good. It's fine. I'm not worried about it. Salazar got me set in there right away. Scanned it. Checked it out. Things are good. Did a bunch of treatment in it already. Got it all wrapped up in this fancy stuff.”

With the results a foregone conclusion, the upside of the young and talented Ryan remains a reason for genuine excitement after he was perfect in four of five frames of his big league debut and carried a perfect game into the seventh inning in his subsequent start.

He looked no different through the first five innings on Tuesday, when he allowed only a double and a walk through the first four innings before Bradley Zimmer launched a 451-foot blast in the fifth.

He finished with three hits, one run allowed and five strikeouts in five-plus frames.

“I said to [pitching coach Wes Johnson] at one point during the outing, ‘It’s been so good, it almost looks a little boring,’” Baldelli said. “He’s just going to work on the hitters, making just good pitch after good pitch. Joe’s mound presence, I think, is exceptional for a young player. The way he continues to adjust and read hitters and prepare for his outings is very impressive, and then he’s executed.”

But Ryan was caught in a compromised position, with his pitching arm and hand exposed, when Straw cracked a 1-2 fastball back up the middle at 92.7 mph to begin the sixth inning. The Twins had been excited by the opportunity -- a needed one -- to see how Ryan, the No. 6 prospect in the organization, could factor into a 2022 rotation already decimated by departures and Kenta Maeda’s recent Tommy John surgery.

They’ll likely have to wait and see how his arm feels in the coming days to see if that evaluation will continue.

“I was telling [Major League coach Bill Evers], my dad's probably going to give me a call and give me some [flak] because I used to throw bullpens and he would hold a tennis ball and rip tennis balls at me after I threw the pitch when he was catching,” Ryan said with his trademark good humor. “He's going to be probably back on me with those drills this offseason. That's not going to be fun."