Ryan Merritt Starts Indians Spring Training Opener

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Having made one major league start, Ryan Merritt was summoned from the instructional league in Arizona last October and pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings against Toronto to help Cleveland close out the AL Championship Series.

Four days after his 25th birthday, the left-hander was back on the mound and started the Indians’ spring training opener, an 8-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Merritt allowed two runs and four hits in two innings, struck out two, walked none and hit a batter. After retiring the side in order in the first, he allowed Eugenio Suarez’s solo homer.

“I think I threw the ball well for the most part,” Merritt said. “I know that I still have got things to work on. It was my first time seeing hitters in a while. I saw a lot of positives out of today.”

Merritt does not figure to start when the season begins: Cleveland’s projected rotation includes Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber.

With the Indians needing starting pitcher last October after Bauer’s drone accident, Merritt was given a chance in Game 5 at Rogers Centre.

“You’ve just got to trust in yourself, have confidence in yourself,” Merritt said. “Relax, try to breathe, lean on your teammates. Just be yourself, just know that you don’t have to go out there and be somebody else. Be yourself and control what you can control and the outcome will take care of itself.”

He allowed two hits against a lineup that includes Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarncion, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin..

“I guess it opened some eyes,” Merritt said. “A lot more people, I guess, know me now. I guess it does kind of change your life.”

Merritt and Sarah Brushaber were married January 27 in Minnesota. Indians fans found their wedding registry on-line with Pottery Barn, Target and Pampered Chef. They sent Merritt gifts.

“I got everything I needed,” he said. “It was awesome, a blessing. Me and my wife really appreciate everything that has happened.”

Notes: Indians rookie Bradley Zimmer hit a three-run homer in the seventh off Jackson Stephens.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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