As an undrafted free agent, new Oriole farmhand Ryan Ariail will have his work cut out for him this spring as he begins his professional career. The tall lefty (6-2, 215 lbs) has worked hard to be where he is today. After graduating from Francis Marion College in 2006, Ariail went undrafted by major league teams. Instead of giving up the dream, he continued to work out and caught on last season as the closer for the Frontier League's Traverse City Beach Bums. Recently, I had an opportunity to chat with him about his baseball career and how things are going with him.
ITW: I see you were used as the closer at Traverse City, have the Orioles given you any idea how they plan to use you?
Ryan: No, the Orioles have not told me yet what my role will be. It all depends on what team I get assigned to, but I am guessing either a set up guy or relief.
ITW: How did the Orioles find out about you?
Ryan: I first got looked at when I went to an O's tryout in Charlotte a week or two after the 2006 draft. I had a good tryout and was told I might receive a call. I waited for 2 weeks and then I called the scout and he explained how things work with try-out camps. In late July, Traverse City called me to come up and so I played the last month of the season with them. I came back home with the intention of finishing up school and being a student assistant coach for Francis Marion University. This gave me the opportunity to keep working out and staying on top of my game.
One day in November an O's scout was coming by to talk to Coach Inabinet. Coach Inabinet asked the scout if he would take a look at me. He liked what he saw and told me he would be in touch. That was a Thursday; they called the TC coach on Friday to get his evaluation of me (I imagine). That Monday I got the call that The O's were going to sign me.
ITW: Have the Orioles given you any idea about what level you will start at next year?
Ryan: As of right now, I am currently on the Delmarva roster.
ITW: How did you find the level of competition in the Frontier League?
Ryan: I found the level of competition in the frontier league a little challenging, considering I did not pitch majority of the summer and it was the first live hitters I faced in months. I played with a good bit of guys who played in affiliated ball at Traverse City.
ITW: From what I have seen, you throw a fastball in the low 90's. Is that your best pitch?
Ryan: Yeah my fastball sits in the low 90's, but this past fall I was clocked hitting 94 a few times.
ITW: What other pitches do you throw? Can you describe them to me?
Ryan: Pretty much my fastball is my best pitch, and then I have a slider and changeup to go along. My slider, I like to compare it to Kenny Rogers slider because it does have the hard bite, but more of a slurve, if you know what I mean, but I plan on working on it. I am not afraid to throw it in any count, as well as my change up. My change up tails and drops right at the plate and I have learned to throw it more when I played in the frontier league.
ITW: Has anyone from the Orioles minor league organization started working with you yet? Have you gotten any coaching from them?
Ryan: Since I have been down here in Sarasota for winter workouts, I have been training six days a week throwing, conditioning, core and rotator cuff work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday is weightlifting and core work. Chris Osmond, the minor league strength coordinator, runs all workouts.
ITW: Can you tell me a bit about the whole process of being scouted and signed as a free agent? How did it all come about?
Ryan: Being scouted as a free agent is very tough and the Lord has blessed me with the opportunity to prove myself in affiliated ball.
ITW: Your stats from the Frontier league are very good. Has anyone given you any idea why you weren't drafted?
Ryan: I am not sure why I was not drafted, but all has worked out, Lord willing, and I am glad to be an Oriole.
ITW: Were you an Orioles fan growing up? Who was your favorite player?
Ryan: I have been an Oriole fan since I was little and my favorite player since then, and always has been, is Cal Ripken Jr.
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