The Long Island Ducks signed 32-year-old lefthanded reliever Royce Ring on Friday, adding a player with five years of MLB experience on top of 11 seasons in the minor leagues. Ring is recovering from Tommy John Surgery, which he had last June after hurting his elbow while pitching for the Rockies Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs. But while Ring is new to the Ducks, this isn't his first go-round with New York baseball. He made his Major League debut with the Mets in 2005 and last pitched in the Majors with the Yankees in 2010. We asked Ring about his time with the Mets and Yankees, signing with the Ducks, and what it takes to be a lefty specialist out of the bullpen.
When you're brought in as a lefty-specialist to face a lefthand hitter, and the opposing team pinch-hits with a righthand hitter, does that frustrate you or do you take that as a sign of respect?
"I take pride in that, sure. Especially if it's a guy that I've handled before and they don't see my stuff very well . . . and it's even better when they put in that righty and your coach leaves you in and you get him out too so you feel real good. It's all about making sure you're making your pitches and competing, and ultimately getting the job done."
Is there more pressure coming to the mound knowing you may get to face only one batter or have to get just one out, as opposed to having a whole inning to work with?
"Yeah, definitely early on when you start getting into that role, but certainly at this stage in my career I don't think about that anymore. It's all about what I'm trying to do with each pitch. Where I'm aiming it, where I'm trying to finish it, and ultimately setting up a hitter and trying to pitch my game no matter who's in the batter's box."
How would you describe yourself as a pitcher; what has made you successful?
"I'm a bullpen guy, I always have been. Early in my career I closed a lot and as I came through I turned into a lefty specialist kind of guy, but hopefully here I can help in the back end of the bullpen, get some key lefties out in key situations and hopefully help us win ball games . . . My curveball and my ability to change speeds has kept me around a long time, especially against lefties. And then just challenging guys, I mean in situational pitching, you walk a guy and you fail. So I try to go after guys and make them put the ball in play or strike them out."
Who's the toughest hitter you've ever faced?
"I'd have to say Chase Utley. Because in that ballpark he's strong enough to hit the ball out and is also a great defensive hitter so he always puts the bat on the ball, he always puts it somewhere and it seemed like it never went at anybody. He always battled me and I just couldn't find that pitch to get him out. He didn't have holes. He's just a gritty, good hitter and he had enough to hit one out of that ballpark. You know the big hitters like Ryan Howard have holes, you hit the right spot you can get them out, you make a mistake and they hit it out. But Chase Utley is a guy where even if you've got two strikes he can shorten up and still put a ball in play and get a hit."
Why did you want to sign with the Ducks?
"This was one of my options and I've heard some good things about it, and seeing guys on the roster I know, playing with them before, so it's a good place for me to get out and start pitching again and just improving . . . I need to throw well for 10, 15, or 20 innings, hopefully get picked up somewhere in Triple-A and then hopefully get up and help somebody at the end of the year in the big leagues. It's all about opportunity. As a guy coming off injury, it's hard for a major league team to take a chance on you when you're not doing rehab with a team. They're not just going to sign someone on a whim or on track record unless it's really impressive. So this tends to be a great place for guys to start in my position because there's a place for me to play and I bring experience and can help the team win, and then in turn I can go out and get better and get back to where I ultimately want to be."
You're the 10th player on the Ducks' current roster with MLB experience, how much of a role did that play in you signing here?
"Definitely a lot. It's a great place to jump into a clubhouse with guys that you've played with or know so it makes it an easy transition . . . I've played with Leo Rosales, Ramon Castro. Connor Graham and I were in the same organization. I know Bill Murphy. I mean there are a bunch of guys that I know on this team. I've been joking with some of the guys that it's kind of like a reunion tour for me."
You played for both the Mets and the Yankees, what's your best memory of playing professional baseball in New York?
"I got to pitch in Old Yankee Stadium with the Mets during the Subway Series in the middle of the year during inter-league . . . and I got in the game and just the noise, I mean I couldn't put it into words. Even when the fans weren't clapping, just the buzz and the hum, I could hear people actually talking, it was crazy. So then I faced [Hideki] Matsui, got him out, then [Jason] Giambi, got him out, and then [Robinson] Cano came in and hooked a slider into rightfield for a base hit and the place erupted. And I literally had goose bumps and tensed up and thought, 'This is unbelievable,' so that was one of my best experiences."