ST. PETERSBURG — Dietrich Enns had quite a journey to get back to the big leagues with the Rays on Tuesday.
The lefty pitcher thought he might be done with pro baseball when he got released by the Mariners at the end of May during the 2020 pandemic shutdown that canceled the minor-league season.
He was 29, hadn’t been back to the majors except for his one and only two-game stint with the Twins in 2017, and started thinking ahead to life without pro ball, signing up for online college classes.
A few months later, he got an opportunity to pitch for a team in a newly-formed independent league near his Chicago-area hometown, plus the added responsibility of also being the pitching coach for the Tully Monsters.
A couple good games later, he got another unexpected opportunity, signed by the Rays to join the players working out at the alternate site in Port Charlotte, providing depth in case there was a need for a starter at the big-league level.
He impressed enough to get invited back this year and performed well with Triple-A Durham, going 6-2, 2.44, with 75 strikeouts in 59 innings over 14 games (10 starts).
And late Monday night he got word that he was finally headed back to the majors, called up to join the Rays bullpen, with Chris Mazza being sent down.
“Excited and pumped and just couldn’t wait to get here,” Enns said before Tuesday’s game against Seattle. “I thought I’d go up (in 2017) and hoped to stay, but you never know what baseball is going to do in life. So it’s kind of been an up-and-down journey, but happy to be healthy and throwing well, and just (that I) can be back here.”
Even better, Enns’ wife, Julie Anne, was able to accompany him for his second opportunity. They were dating when he got called up the first time in 2017 and couldn’t get off work from her insurance agency job. She was with him in Durham, N.C., when he got this call and promptly booked a seat on the same flight.
“She never got to see me pitch in the big leagues at the time,” he said. “She said she was going to come down and she wasn’t taking no for an answer.”
Plus, Enns noted, “It’s kind of crazy how it’s come full circle to get called back up against the Mariners.”
The Rays are happy to have him, noting his improved mechanics and increased velocity (up to 93-96 mph), and the benefit of adding a second lefty to their bullpen after Jeffrey Springs was sidelined with a knee injury. And one who, similarly, can work multiple innings.
“All he’s done is made progress,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Before we even knew anything was going down (Monday), we were talking about him and how valuable he could be.”
Also Tuesday, the Rays still were awaiting word on whether top starter Tyler Glasnow got a recommendation from Dr. Keith Meister to have Tommy John elbow surgery, as is expected.
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