Justine Siegal becomes first woman to throw batting practice to MLB team

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Justine Siegal has made a habit out of breaking down barriers. She became the first woman to coach a professional baseball team when she was hired as the first base coach of the independent league Brockton Rox in 2009. She has also spent the past four years as the assistant baseball coach at Springfield College in Massachusetts. On Monday, she added another impressive accomplishment to the list.

According to the Associated Press, Siegal became the first woman to pitch batting practice to a major league team when she threw for the Indians earlier today.

Siegal, a Cleveland native who grew up rooting for the Tribe, was given the opportunity to throw after approaching general manager Chris Antonetti during December’s winter meetings. On Monday, the 36-year-old Siegal got to live out every fan’s dream, throwing BP to a few players in major league camp, including catcher Paul Phillips, Lou Marson and Juan Apodaca.

“I wanted to be Orel Hershiser,” Siegal said of the starting pitcher who played for Cleveland in the mid-1990s. “Following the Indians is in my blood.”

“My heart was beating really fast,” Siegal said. “I’ve been thinking about this for the last month.”

Siegal wore a patch honoring Christina Taylor Green, who was killed in last month’s shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Green was the only girl on her local Little League baseball team. Awesome stuff.

And just in case you were ready to say that the Indians don’t count as a major league team, you should know that Siegal is scheduled to throw batting practice for the Athletics on Wednesday, as well.

Rays sign lefty Ryan Merritt to a minor league deal

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The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.

Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.

His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.

The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.