TOKYO — The modern athlete loves to discover perceived animosity and use it as a form of ambition fuel.
Joe Ryan was traded from the only professional baseball organization he has ever known as he prepared for the only quarantined Olympics in history. He could complain. He could turn the Tampa Bay Rays or bad pandemic timing into the kind of self-pity that motivates so many.
Instead, the right-hander stands there wearing his Team USA uniform praising the team that traded him, the player he was traded for, the player he was traded with, the manager he is about to play for in Minnesota, and the city that has restricted him to his room and sent him on a lot of long bus rides.
On a sunny day in Tokyo, as he prepared for Team USA's Olympic opener on Friday, Ryan said he was proud to have been good enough to help the Tampa Bay Rays trade him, in a four-player deal, for Nelson Cruz, the Twins' best hitter for the past three years.
"It was definitely a shock,'' Ryan said. "But I mean, I'm excited to move on to another chapter in my career. It's an honor to be traded for Nelson Cruz, a great player who is having another great year and is an All-Star. I think it should work out for both parties.''
If it works out for the Twins, that would likely mean that Ryan will become either a frontline starter on a rebuilt Twins team, or a contributor to a contender.
Again, Ryan sounds like he has the right attitude. "I like to throw strikes,'' he said. "I like to go after hitters.''
Ryan is preparing to do just that for an intriguing Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, on a team filled with excellent prospects — plus a few veterans, such as former Twin Tyler Austin, who plays for the Japanese team Yakult Swallows. Their opener is early Friday (5 a.m. Central, livestreamed on NBCOlympics.com and NBC Sports app) vs. Israel.
The last time a prominent young Twin played in the Olympics, Doug Mientkiewicz won gold in Sydney and called it one of the greatest experiences of his life. The day he showed off the gold medal in the Twins clubhouse, his hands trembled.
Last week, the Twins traded Cruz and minor-league pitcher Calvin Faucher for Ryan and pitcher Drew Strotman, with whom Ryan has become friends.
The deal was a reminder that the Twins hired Derek Falvey to build pitching strength through the organization, yet this season had to rely on free agent veterans like J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker to fill out the rotation. The results have been disastrous.
Ryan could rise quickly. He's 25 and this year at Class AAA Durham went 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA. In his last full season in the minors, 2019, he went 9-4 with a 1.96 ERA at three levels.
His self-scouting report: "Fastball, changeup, slider and throwing strikes,''' he said.
Paralleling his attitude about being traded, he did not complain about being quarantined in a major city.
"The experience has been amazing,'' he said. "I mean, you can just see how amazing it would be without COVID as well. It's been very special already in the city of Tokyo. It's beautiful. We're seeing it by bus and I think it's a very unique way to experience a city, just basically getting a bus tour every day.
"It's opened my eyes to taking future trips here just to visit it again when everything is open. I'm very excited for that.
"The Olympic Village is top-notch. We probably have the best room in the Village, and we have a great view. The accommodations are amazing; we're getting to talk with other athletes from other countries. This has been a great opportunity.''
He's equally optimistic about joining the Twins. He spoke with Falvey, who did not tell him whether he will join Triple-A St. Paul or the Twins. That could be determined by the moves Falvey makes in the next few days.
"He told me we'll talk about that and the logistics after the Olympics,'' Ryan said. "Everybody with the Twins has been great. They told me to just enjoy this experience.''
Sounds like he didn't need much encouragement.