The incredible element in baseball is how long it can take to find success, the number of times a pitcher or position player must improve from getting started as a teenager to reaching the big leagues.

And then once there, the need to continue making improvements, not only to get rich but simply to stick around.

There are very few exceptions — of course, the Doc Goodens and the Mike Trouts and the Juan Sotos, but in most cases, baseball is the team sport above all that requires the wherewithal to recover from failure and to keep crawling forward.

We are seeing that now at the end of Houston Astros playoff games, when Ryan Pressly, soon to be 34, arrives on the mound to try to close out a victory.

Pressly was 18 when drafted in the 11th round by the Boston Red Sox in June 2007. He put in four seasons as a starter from 2008 to 2011 and never got out of Class A. He remained a starter for 12 appearances at Salem, Va., in 2012, then the Red Sox ordered him to the bullpen.

Pressly was effective for eight games in relief, and was promoted to Portland, Maine's Class AA team in the Eastern League.

Terry Ryan, the Twins general manager at the time, said Saturday: "We were in that league in New Britain. Our guys there saw Pressly pitch a few times and gave us good reports."

The Red Sox then sent Pressly to the Arizona Fall League.

"Kenny Compton was a scout for us down there and he was all over Pressly," Ryan said. "He threw hard and had that curveball. He just had to figure out how to get it over in the right spots."

Pressly was not on Boston's 40-player protected list, making him eligible for the Rule 5 draft at the December 2012 meetings in Nashville.

The first four selections were pitchers: Astros, Josh Fields; Cubs, Hector Rondon; Rockies, Daniel Rosenbaum; and Twins, Pressly.

Rule 5 means you have to keep a player in the big leagues for the upcoming season, or either lose him on waivers or offer him back to the previous team at half-price.

The Twins kept him — and manager Ron Gardenhire used the 24-year-old rookie in 49 games. By 2016, Pressly was leading manager Paul Molitor's staff with 72 appearances, plus an ERA of 3.70 that looked good compared to the team's 5.08.

Pressly was an early arrival to spring training in February 2017. The big truck he had driven from his home near Dallas was in the minor league parking lot.

"New truck?" I asked.

Pressly laughed and said, "It's different, not new. I can't believe what a good truck costs. This one has over 50,000 miles. They told me the price and I said, 'What?' "

That day, he was proud to reveal regaining 20 pounds over the winter. "Last year, I started at 207 and wound up at 190," he said. "It's because of my medicine."

Medicine for attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity. It was his mother, Jan, who insisted for hours to baseball officials to get Ryan cleared to take the ADHD medicine.

And inside the truck, there was a Bible — a keepsake from his father, Tom, who died from kidney cancer at 63 in 2013.

There was a note inside, with an inspirational Bible verse and then this advice from Dad: "Throw the fastball for strikes and then hammer them with the curve."

It is 5½ years later. He was traded by the sagging Twins to Houston at the July deadline in 2018 for pitcher Jorge Alcala and outfielder Gilberto Celestino.

Pressly and Kat Rogers, a well-known former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, were married on New Year's Eve 2019. They have two kids, a boy and a girl, born a year apart.

He was an All-Star as a setup man in 2019. He saved the second game that eliminated the Twins in the mini-playoff in 2020. He went to a second All-Star Game in 2021. He saved the first two games in this current series vs. the Yankees.

He has succeeded by throwing the fastball for strikes, by hammering the curve and by mixing sliders and changeups for good measure.

Pressly signed a two-year, $30 million contract extension in early April, meaning he can drop the "what?" when buying the next truck.

"Ryan is a really good guy, and he would always take the ball," Terry Ryan said. "There couldn't be anyone easier to root for."