Today there are a lot of Harmon Killebrew stories floating around. Most of them involve an interview with the guy or meeting him in spring training sometime in the past few years. Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly has one that goes a little further back. To age 9, when he got an autograph outside the visitor’s clubhouse at Fenway Park:
The third man in the group was stocky and balding and his temples were gray. When you’re 9, you have a terrible concept of age. You think of anyone who doesn’t go out for Halloween anymore as old. With that, I must confess I thought the balding man was the trainer. But trying to be polite, I asked him if he’d sign as well.
The man was gracious and completely untroubled. He smiled and said he’d be happy to sign my ball.
It sure as hell wasn’t Cesar Tovar.
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.