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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ryan O'Rourke: Minnesota Twins' Lefty Pitching Prospect Preparing for Majors

Left-handed pitcher Ryan O’Rourke was a star right through his college career. However, upon becoming a professional, he has gotten on the straight track for the bullpen, and that is more than okay.

The 25-year-old southpaw dominated at Merrimack College, posting a microscopic 1.25 ERA and school record 93 strikeouts as a senior in 2010. Although the New England native harbored dreams of playing for his home team, the Boston Red Sox, those aspirations were not to be (at least not yet), as he was selected in the 13th round of the 2010 draft by the Minnesota Twins.

O’Rourke started and relieved during his first two seasons in the minors but since early 2012 has worked strictly as a reliever—reaching as high as Double-A. He has experienced success, accumulating a combined record of 14-17 with a 4.16 ERA and 8 saves in 124 games (24 starts). He has also struck out 261 in 277 innings, and could find himself as a lefty specialist in Minnesota before long.

Currently toiling for the New Britain Rock Cats in the Eastern League, O’Rourke is on the verge of being ready. Keep up with his progress and make sure to root for this hard-working prospect.

Ryan O’Rourke Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite player growing up was Ken Griffey Jr. Every kid my age loved him. He was the guy who could do it all. I can remember playing Whiffle Ball and everyone had to pick a player. I was always "The Kid". 

As I grew older and started looking into baseball history I can say I really enjoyed hearing Bob Gibson stories. He had a no fear attitude that I try to bring on the mound.

Growing up in Massachusetts, did you harbor a desire to be drafted by the Red Sox?: I always wanted to play for the Red Sox. Going to Fenway Park as a kid was such a memorable experience. 

In college, when I was about to be selected, I had a lot of conversations with their scouting staff. I got a call the day before, and really felt it would be them who selected me. As it came to be the Twins selected me in the 13th round and I couldn't be any happier now.

How did you find out the Twins were interested in you?: John Wilson, a Twins scout, came to a lot of my games during college. He wouldn't say a word and I didn't know who he was in the beginning. As June approached, our talks grew and he said the Twins were very serious about me. I had to fill out a lot of forms for John, and he said expect a call on day two of the draft. It was just before the 10th round when I got a text saying to be patient. Once my name came across the screen, my phone rang and it was him giving me a congratulations.

What pitches do you throw and which do you think you need to work on the most?:  I throw four and two-seam fastball, slider, curve and changeup. I always need to work on all of my pitches. Learning where I can throw what pitch in certain counts and situations to get the best result is always a work in progress.

I would say attacking lefties with a fastball in is one of my main areas of focus. Also, a changeup is the pitch that takes the longest to learn again after the offseason break, so I will mix that in a lot this offseason.

What kind of knowledge did you have of the Twins organization before they drafted you?: I had little knowledge about the Twins. I knew of Joe Mauer and Morneau, and that they were a power in the AL Central, but I was unaware of their organization. Once I was taken by the Twins, many trusted scouts and advisors told me how I was in a great "family" organization who preaches to promote from within.

Do you ever wish you would be given more chances to start, or do you feel settled in as a reliever?: I was given my chances to start, and I handled the position well. I have now been giving a duty to relieve games, and I feel I have performed well also.

I don't have a crystal ball to predict where I would fit best. The front office has made decisions for me to put me in the best position to succeed. I trust in everything they have told me, and the role I am in now gives me the best chance to make a difference in the majors.

Who has been your most influential coach or manager?: It is tough to single out a specific coach who has influenced me the most. First and foremost, my parents have made so many sacrifices to give me the best opportunities in life and in baseball, so I am forever grateful for them.

In terms of coaches, each one has brought something different. My high school coaches taught me that you need to be more than just a thrower, and you need to pitch. My college coach showed me that a never-lose attitude goes a long way and nothing can be said negatively about someone who out-works the person next to him.

Now in the low minors of the Twins, each coach has left a significant mark on my career. They all have taught me you need to be a professional at all times both on and off the field. Also, there will be some days when you don't have your best stuff, and those are the fun days; those make you the pitcher who makes it or doesn't make it.

What are some things you like to do outside of baseball?: I really enjoy being outside. I am an avid golfer during the season when I can make time for it. I am not too good but I like playing and the individual challenge.

I also take the bus rides to read and have put together quite a collection of books throughout the years. I am a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan and just started his newest book "David & Goliath.”

Recently I started doing some arts and crafts, and have made some pretty cool things.

Lastly the beach is probably my spot. My family has a house on Cape Cod, so taking a retreat there is always necessary to get some R&R.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

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