By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
Stability has been a big reason why Lake Stevens High School graduate Ryan Verdugo is making his first year of Triple-A baseball a success.
He just hopes it doesn’t last long.
While many of his teammates have come and gone at Class AAA Omaha, Verdugo has spent the entire season there while posting promotion-worthy numbers (3-0, 3.22 earned run average) with the Storm Chasers. This may well be the year Verdugo reaches his dream, although he’s trying not to think that way.
The inevitable call from the major leagues is a topic that Verdugo tries to chase from his consciousness.
“There are some thoughts of that; I’d be lying if I said no,” he said via telephone last week from Omaha, where he’s a starting pitcher for the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. “I hope the call comes soon, but I try not to think about that. It’s harder to say than to do it, but you have to push those thoughts away.”
It’s getting harder and harder to ignore talk of promotion. The 6-foot left-hander went five consecutive starts without allowing more than two earned runs before getting touched up for four earned runs in 51/3 innings of work last Monday. In his first year of Triple-A ball, Verdugo has held opposing hitters to a .188 batting average and has yet to lose a game.
While the Kansas City Royals have made eight promotions from Omaha this season, Verdugo has had to bide his time and stay patient.
“A couple of guys I’ve made friends with have been up and down,” he said. “I’m happy for them because, obviously, that’s their dream. But I can’t concern myself with what they’re doing. When that call comes, I’ve got to be ready.”
In a way, Verdugo has been ready for the good part of two decades. The 25-year old former Lake Stevens resident — he spent the first two years of his life in California before moving to Lynnwood and relocating again in the fifth grade — has been dreaming of playing in the majors for as long as he can remember.
“It started, definitely, when I was a little kid,” Verdugo said last week. “I started playing catch with my dad when I was 6, and ever since then, when people asked what I wanted to do when I grow up I’d say: ‘I want to play baseball.’”
Now on the cusp of achieving his major-league dream, Verdugo has traveled some long roads to get to Omaha. He twice turned down professional contracts — first, as a 43rd-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies following his senior year of high school in 2005, then again two years later, when the San Francisco Giants took him in Round 47 — before eventually signing in 2008.
Verdugo attended Skagit Valley College out of high school, then went on to play for the esteemed LSU baseball program before signing with the Giants after being selected in the ninth round of the 2008 draft. He spent four seasons in the San Francisco organization, going 8-6 with a 4.35 ERA at Double-A Richmond last year, then got traded to Kansas City in a deal that sent major-league outfielder Melky Cabrera to the Giants last November.
For whatever reason, the trade seems to have brought out the best in Verdugo. He overcame a slow start to the 2012 season to put up impressive numbers through first eight starts at Triple-A.
Not that Verdugo is spending too much time thinking about the next step.
“I’m trying not to worry too much about what’s going on up there,” he said, “just what’s happening here. I’ll keep working on what I can control so I’ll be ready when I get there.
“… You just have to put in your time. Obviously, there’s a lot of luck involved too. You can’t worry about it too much.”