Germany, Australia ... now Yanks for Bollinger

Wide-traveling left-hander joins club vs. Rangers at Globe Life Park

May 23rd, 2018
29 APRIL 2018: Ryan Bollinger during the Scranton Rail Riders vs Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs regular season game at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA. (photo by Andy Grosh/agphotosports)Andy Grosh

ARLINGTON -- Ryan Bollinger's long and winding road to the Major Leagues saw the left-hander pitch on three continents, including stops in Germany and Australia. He will try on a Yankees uniform for the first time before Wednesday's game against the Rangers at Globe Life Park.

Bollinger had his contract purchased from Double-A Trenton and was added to the big league roster, filling out New York's pitching staff. Right-hander was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after Tuesday's 6-4 loss to Texas.

"I just kept pitching," Bollinger said. "I kept playing overseas and just enjoyed it. Somebody saw me over there, and I was lucky enough to get a contract offer. I tried to take it and run with it and see what happens."

Bollinger, 27, was a combined 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA in five starts between Double-A and Triple-A this year, his first in the Yankees' organization. In 29 innings, the 6-foot-6 Bollinger permitted 18 hits and seven walks and struck out 20.

"He's taken advantage of opportunities," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "It's been an interesting road to get to this point, but he's pitched well for us in Double-A and Triple-A and earned this opportunity. I'm excited to have him here today."

Initially drafted as a first baseman out of Minot (N.D.) High School by the Phillies in the 47th round of the 2009 Draft, Bollinger managed just four hits in 23 Gulf Coast League at-bats before being released. Converting to a pitcher, he briefly appeared in the independent Frontier League before resurfacing in the White Sox organization for three years.

"I guess I just couldn't hit; It was pretty tough," Bollinger said. "I'd rather get on the mound and do something that I've always loved."

Bollinger was back in independent ball by 2014, pitching for St. Paul and Winnipeg of the American Association. He then latched on with Trois-Rivieres of the Canadian-American Association, pitching parts of three seasons.

"Back then I was kind of tentative and wanted to be a strike-thrower, but I didn't know how to do it with my best stuff," Bollinger said. "I feel like over time I've learned to control that and be able to put 98 percent of my effort into every pitch and see what happens."

In 2017, Bollinger traveled to Germany, suiting up for Munich-Haar of Bundesliga. With two fastballs, a slider, curveball and changeup, Bollinger drew the attention of veteran Yankees scout Troy Williams, who covers Europe, the Middle East and Africa for the organization.

"Usually you're looking for younger guys," Williams said in a telephone conversation. "You don't think too often you're going to see a guy who's 26, as he was at the time. When I first saw Ryan last May, a little over a year ago, I was really impressed with what I saw. He pitched a really good game against a bunch of guys who had played affiliated baseball or independent league ball.

"I thought, 'Well, OK, this is interesting. I need to see this guy again.' I ended up seeing him about 15 times. I got to know him and followed him around. I was impressed by many things about him; his makeup, his character and the way he pitched and handled himself."

Bollinger came to a verbal agreement with the Yankees last July, then finished his season against stronger competition with Brisbane of the Australian Baseball League. He was 5-1 with a 3.48 ERA in nine starts, striking out 75 against 12 walks in 54 1/3 innings while leading his club to a regular-season and playoff championship.

"It's just a different lifestyle," Bollinger said. "It's very kind of easy-going. Both places are great in their own way. I'm very happy I got to experience both of them."

Bollinger was asked if he saw any kangaroos during his time in Brisbane.

"Yeah, I did, actually," Bollinger replied, with a laugh. "Not in the city, like everyone thinks, but you go out in the country and you'll see them everywhere."

Williams said that he learned of Bollinger's promotion early on Tuesday. He had been planning to go online to watch Bollinger pitch for Trenton in their 10:35 a.m. ET game against Akron, and instead was thrilled to be told that Bollinger was on a plane to Texas.

"It's a great thing for Ryan and his family, of course," Williams said. "You cross so many paths like he's done and so many continents, so many people are rooting for him. It's an unusual story; he's a special guy. I know everybody is excited for him over here in Europe and Australia, and many people in the States as well."