Inside the Orioles’ clubhouse, a player with a familiar-looking face extended his hand.
“Ryan Drese,” he said.
This is one of the things I love about spring training - players who pop out of nowhere to re-introduce themselves.
Drese, 34, hasn’t pitched in the majors since April 14, 2006, a span of nearly five years. Since then he has undergone Tommy John surgery twice, played independent ball in Camden, N.J. and Long Island, N.Y, winter ball in Venezuela and Mexico, minor-league ball as far down as the Braves’ Class A affiliate in Myrtle Beach, S.C. – “like I was Crash Davis,” Drese said.
Why is he attempting a comeback? Simple answer: His elbow started feeling good again while pitching in Mexico this winter.
“I thought I’d give it one last shot,” Drese says.
Drese, who signed a minor-league contract, played for Orioles manager Buck Showalter in Texas. He figures that even if he goes to Triple A, Showalter will trust him if the Orioles need pitching help at some point during the season.
Way back in 2004, Drese rode his sinker to win 14 games for the Rangers with a 4.20 ERA. The team signed him to a two-year contract extension, then – in a surprising move - designated him for assignment in June 2005. The Nationals claimed Drese on waivers. He pitched the rest of the season but made only two starts in ’06 before undergoing his first Tommy John surgery in August.
“I know the makeup, I know the sinker,” Showalter says. “It’s all about timing with a lot of these guys, if you catch them when they’re healthy.”
— Ken Rosenthal