FORT MYERS, FLA. – Ryan Pressly was in his 10th professional season and his fourth with the Twins in 2016, when he found a vital and full-time role in the bullpen for the first time.
Then, he went home to the Dallas area and gained 20 pounds during the offseason.
There have been instances with Twins prospects of less experience when they also experienced weight gain in an offseason, and it left the organization frustrated.
The 20 pounds that Pressly gained this winter … all parties are pleased, including the righthanded reliever.
“I always lose weight during the season,” Pressly said. “Last year, I was 207 at the start and around 190 at the end.”
Why does this happen? “I think it’s because of my medicine,” he said.
Pressly was officially diagnosed with what’s now referred to as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a fifth-grader.
“I would get started on something and five minutes later, I was doing something else,” Pressly said. “It was definitely chaotic.”
Pressly was put on medication and was able to find focus in his life. “Things became normal,” he said.
One place where the medication can be a problem is high-level sports competition. Adderall and other meds used to treat ADHD can show up as amphetamines in drug testing by professional sports leagues.
Pressly was drafted in the 11th round by the Boston Red in 2007 and elected to sign rather than take his scholarship to Texas Tech.
“I remember my mother [Jan] being on the phone with baseball officials explaining to them that I had been taking the medicine since the fifth grade,” Pressly said. “She must have been on the phone for three hours, saying, ‘He needs it; we have the medical records to prove it.’ ”
Pressly was approved to continue using the drug. Which he needs, but how does he keep on weight on his 6-foot-3 frame during a season of heavy bullpen use?
“I eat a little junk food, but nutritionists in Dallas and here with the Twins have me eating healthy stuff that puts on weight,” Pressly said.
Pressly is 28 and hasn’t yet experienced the riches of what’s starting to look like a successful major league career. He was arbitration-eligible for the first time during this offseason and agreed to a $1.175 million contract.
Those checks aren’t rolling in yet. That’s why the truck that Pressly drove from Texas to Fort Myers isn’t new, just different.
“I can’t believe what a good truck costs,” he said. “This one has over 50,000 miles. They told me the price and I said, ‘What?’ ”
A 28-year-old single guy from Texas, though — he’s got to drive a truck, and there’s generally a well-used Bible.
There’s a very important note in Pressly’s Bible, from his father, Tom, who died of kidney cancer at age 63 on Nov. 1, 2013.
Tom and the family knew he was terminal early that year, when Ryan was getting ready to go to his first big-league camp as a Rule 5 draftee of the Twins. He wrote a note to his son with an inspirational Biblical passage, and added that Ryan should throw his fastball for strikes and then hammer hitters with the curve.
“I always have the note with me during the season,” Pressly said. “I must read it a hundred times during a season. Keeps me pumped up.”
Pressly went to high school at American Heritage Academy, a private school in Carrollton, Texas. There was speculation the small school would be closing at the start of Pressly’s senior year in 2006-07.
He had played football as a receiver and safety. Now he had the baseball commitment from Texas Tech.
“It made sense not to play football that fall,” Pressly said. “But I played anyway. Those guys were my buddies and felt an obligation to be with them for a last season.
“I tore an ACL in my left knee in the sixth game of the season.”
Now, he had a bad knee and the possibility of no baseball season if the small school closed. He transferred to Marcus High School, a large, public school, and pitched that spring with a left leg that he could hardly bend.
He wound up paying his way to a showcase event, the radar readings were 95 miles per hour, and he was drafted in the 11th round by the Red Sox.
“I was shocked,” he said. “I had heard I would be drafted maybe in the low 20s, possibly 30th [round]. But 11th round? I signed.”
He had good stretches, then poor ones, during five summers as a starter in the Red Sox organization.
Pressly said: “I remember a game against a Twins farm club, when Mike Gonzales and Josmil Pinto went back-to-back with long home runs, and thinking, ‘How am I ever going to make it to the big leagues with pitches like that?’ ”
The Red Sox put him in the bullpen halfway through the 2012 season. He moved up from Class A to Class AA, then was invited to the Arizona Fall League. That’s where the Twins took a strong interest and made him the fourth selection in the Rule 5 draft.
That enabled him to stay in the big leagues as a rookie in 2013, a triumph for his father who was getting closer to death in Texas. Too bad Tom Pressly wasn’t here to see his son throwing fastballs for strikes and hammering with the curveball in his breakthrough 2016 season:
A 3.70 ERA in 72 games, with 75⅓ innings and 67 strikeouts.
“Actually, I’d like to throw more strikes,” Pressly said. “That’s the big thing for me in 2017.”
That, and figuring out a way to keep on weight. We all hate that one.