Chuck McGill: Former Twin, Angel set for managerial debut
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Thirty-eight pitchers and catchers are expected to arrive today at Pirate City, the Pittsburgh Pirates' spring training home in Bradenton, Fla.
Position players are scheduled to arrive later this week. This used to be the case for Michael Ryan, a 35-year-old former outfielder who is in his 18th season in professional baseball.
This will be his first spring roaming the fields of Pirate City as a manager.
Ryan, who played for 14 minor league teams and spent parts of five seasons in the majors with the Twins and Angels is the first-year manager of the West Virginia Power. He played for pay from 1996-2010 after being a fifth-round pick of the Twins in the 1996 amateur draft.
Now, he can't wait to begin working with the talent that will inevitably dot the Power roster this season.
"I'm not sure how the roster is going to look yet, but I know for a fact you're going to have eight or nine, maybe even 10, players that are going to be significant pieces to the Pirates in the future," Ryan said this offseason. "That's super exciting to be able to work with these kids for a full season."
According to the Pirates, 29 of 38 pitchers arrived for spring training Monday - a day ahead of schedule. Position players are set to arrive Friday, and full squad workouts will ensue.
Pirates front office personnel will get a look at the organization from top to bottom. The Power roster will be finalized in the weeks before the April 4 season opener at home against Asheville.
Ryan had never made a trip to Charleston before his hire this winter. He said he'll lean on the managerial and baseball wisdom from a pair of his former managers - Mike Scioscia and Ron Gardenhire - when he arrives at Appalachian Power Park this spring.
Scioscia and Gardenhire won consecutive American League Manager of the Year honors in 2009 and '10 with the Angels and Twins, respectively.
"I think it's important as a manager to rely on what you thought was successful as far as the managers you played for," Ryan said. "I want to take little pieces from them and try to develop my own style.
"I want to wrap that into trying to come up with my own style. You'd be foolish not to take some of their ideas and twist them up and make them your own."
Ryan spent most of his baseball career trying to climb the organizational ladder, which makes him an ideal fit for players who are competing in their first full season in the pros. Ryan played 149 games in the majors and 1,470 in the minors.
He spent parts of his last three years in the Pacific Coast League, trying one last time to stick with a big league club. He found a more valuable role within the organization.
"I was an older player at the tail end of my career and I had teammates who would come to me with different questions and asking my opinion on how they could succeed," Ryan said. "I had a couple players tell me that someday, after I'm done playing, that I would make a good coach or manager.
"That's what gave me the idea. Baseball has been very good to me and I've learned so much just playing the game, I thought it would be good to try and help others with their careers."
Ryan's Power staff will also have ex-pros Jeff Johnson (pitching coach) and Orlando Merced (hitting coach). Johnson, who pitched three seasons for the New York Yankees in the early '90s, is a familiar name for Power fans, as he has mentored Power pitchers previously. Merced played 13 seasons and made more than $13 million as a member of the Pirates, Twins, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Cubs, Expos and Astros organizations.
That trio will inherit some of the younger players in a minor league system that ESPN.com baseball writer Keith Law ranked the seventh best in baseball earlier this month. The Pirates trailed only the Cardinals, Twins, Rays, Astros, Cubs and Padres on Law's list.
If that talent excels under Ryan's tutelage, he might not have them for long. The Power is the low Class A affiliate of the Pirates, and the players who earn a one-rung promotion are sent to advanced Class A Bradenton.
"That could go right back to Bradenton," Ryan said. "That's how good these kids are, and Power fans get to come out and watch these guys that are going to be future major leaguers."
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-7949.