April 13, 2024

From Unknown to Hero, Back to Unknown: Ryan Merritt

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It was October 19th, 2016. The Indians had a 3-1 lead in the ALCS over the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tribe was one game away from their first trip to the World Series since ’97. Indians Manager Terry Francona had a dilemma. His starting pitching staff was ravaged by injury. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were out due to injuries and the Indians were down to Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer and his nine fingers. Francona rolled the dice on a kid who made only one start his entire career in the regular season (none in the playoffs) in Ryan Merritt.

Merritt would become one of only two pitchers in MLB history to have started just one game in the regular season before pitching in the postseason; the other being Matt Moore. Merritt pitched 4 1/3 shutout innings against Toronto, giving up two hits and striking out three. The Indians would go on to win the series making Merritt a hero in Cleveland. Merritt wasn’t even expected to pitch in the postseason. In fact, he was getting ready for his wedding. Well, some Indians fans got wind of Merritt’s wedding registry. As Cleveland fans would, they sent Ryan and his now-wife Sarah, gifts that flooded their porch in appreciation of Merritt’s heroic effort.

This is the crazy part. Merritt would not throw a single pitch in the World Series. Some fans to this day, including myself, have never understood why. For the 2017 season, Merritt did not see much action. He started four games, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.74 ERA. Ryan would not make the postseason roster. So, the question is… how does a kid go from winning a game that sends his team to the World Series and struggles to maintain a roster spot?

The Indians are stacked in their starting rotation. So, word out of Arizona is that Merritt could be possibly used out of the bullpen since the Indians lost a few arms this offseason. Could Merritt finally make it back to the big stage? Only time will tell.

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