BURLINGTON, IA — A solid short-season debut put Oakland A’s infield prospect Ryan Gridley in position for a promotion to the Midwest League in 2018, but those hopes were almost immediately dashed this spring when he suffered a broken hamate bone in his left wrist.
Instead of breaking camp with a good chunk of the A’s other 2017 draft picks, the 11th-rounder out of Mississippi State stayed at the A’s minor league camp. It was a long, hard stretch for Gridley, who finally got out of extended spring training to join the Low-A Beloit Snappers seven weeks ago.
“You come into this season with these really high expectations for yourself,” Gridley said. “I thought this was going to be a breakout year for myself, I’d be able to prove a lot of people wrong and show a lot of people what I can do, but right off the bat I get hamate surgery in my first week of spring training. That was pretty difficult to deal with, because you have these expectations and believe in yourself but something like that happens.
“I was in Arizona for March, April, May and came in here in mid-June. I’ve been here since then it’s been a different experience than I thought. You’ve got to make a lot of adjustments, especially coming off surgery. You’ve got to feel out your swing again and get used to your body moving in certain ways.”
Gridley performed well as a full-timer with Vermont last summer, slashing .262/.357/.333 in 56 games. He struck out just 33 times in 210 at-bats while drawing 28 walks. The end result was a remarkable run for the A’s New York-Penn League affiliate which included an all-star nod for Gridley.
“I had a really good year in Vermont last year and didn’t think I was going to be sent there (this year),” he said. “I thought I’d have an opportunity to come here, just because of what I did last year. I thought I played a good role (on the team). I was happy when they sent me here.”
Being thrown into the mix during the heart of any season is always difficult and Gridley has endured some struggles through 38 games with the Snappers. Entering Tuesday night’s series finale in Burlington, he had mustered just two hits in his previous 17 at-bats to drop his season slash line to .214/.318/.290.
“I’ve seen a lot of first-pitching breaking balls, so that’s been an adjustment deciding when or not to go ahead and swing first pitch,” Gridley said. “It’s something I’m learning, when to be aggressive and when to look for a pitch in a certain zone. Those are all things people here in Beloit are doing.”
The Beloit infielder claims to feel as well as he did last summer, but says that’s not necessarily meant having success right out of the chute.
“I feel like physically I’m as good or better than last year, but mentally there’s always got to be adjustments,” he said. “No matter who you are, there’s always going to be adjustments every day.
“It’s less physical for me and more mental like ‘hey, get ready for a fastball right here and expect a pitch on the inside half of the plate or this guy is coming with a breaking ball right here so sit back on it’. It’s those types of things you do in your mind that are the toughest things.”
Certainly not one to feel any pity for himself, Gridley is tackling the adversity head on.
“For me, it’s just believing in myself,” he said. “When you come here and struggle in the beginning, you’re wondering what happened, question yourself and doubt yourself in the box. When you start to pick up steam, you start to believe in yourself and remember keys from before that worked and did not work.
“When you get thrown into a half-season, everything is cut in half and you’re working with what you got. I’ve had minimal time to do my adjustments, but no one is feeling sorry for me. It’s just ‘do it and show me’.”
The 23-year-old said he hopes to gain some footing over the final five weeks of 2018 and gain the momentum he felt he had going into last offseason.
“Being here now and being able to recoup is nice, but I really want to improve and show people who I am,” Gridley said.
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