TAMPA – Clay High graduate and baseball ace Kyle Bird, a strong-armed left handed pitcher, got the first of hopefully two career-changing calls from Major League Baseball as the Tampa Bay Rays …
TAMPA – Clay High graduate and baseball ace Kyle Bird, a strong-armed left handed pitcher, got the first of hopefully two career-changing calls from Major League Baseball as the Tampa Bay Rays called Bird up from his minor league team in Mexico to join the Rays’ 40-man roster for the upcoming spring season.
“It’s the next step to being in the Major Leagues,” said Bird, in a phone interview on Sunday. “This is the call that Tampa Bay is putting me on their 40-man roster which is usually the first step to getting on to the 25-man roster which is the Tampa Bay Rays you watch on television. It’s pretty exciting.”
Bird, 25, joins the Rays as part of a five-player call up after the Rays finished at 90 wins and 72 losses last year and finished just out of playoff contention by 10 games behind the New York Yankees. Two more pitchers; a left hander and a right hander join Bird in the five man call with two outfielders joining the group.
Bird, who toys with pitch speeds in the 92-95 miles per hour range, can possibly join Rays’ starter Blake Snell, the American League Cy Young award winner, as the Rays look to improve their sixth in the league earned runs average of 3.74.
“Teams put guys like me on the 40-man roster because, I hope, they see that I have performed well enough that they think they have a need for my pitching at some point,” said Bird. “I’m coming into this a a bullpen pitcher; a reliever, but the Rays also use relievers as openers to ball games that let the starter come in in like the second or third inning to keep his arm fresh.”
Bird worked a 1.94 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 55.2 innings of pitching for the Triple-A Durham minor league team last year after being moved from Double-A Montgomery in May.
“I’ve been to the spring trainings with the Rays the past few years as the whole organization usually participates in the spring training,” said Bird, who got a non-roster invite last year and was active just until the final week of spring training. “The difference is that, now that I’m on the 40-man roster, they are now aware of what I have done and will be watching maybe a little closer. It makes it a little easier to get the call to the 25-man roster. I’m not in the Majors just yet though.”
With the Triple-A Durham Bulls in September, Bird pitched two innings in the Governors Cup championship game won by Durham over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 6-2 in Moosic, PA. The win was the second consecutive Governor’s Cup title for the Durham team; sixth in the team’s history. The Governor’s Cup is given to the champion of the International League; one of two Triple-A minor leagues of Major League Baseball.
Most recently, in Mexico with the Yaquis de Obregon team, Bird was 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in 18 relief outings.
“To go to Mexico was my choice mainly because I needed the money with a new baby and all that, but it also is a way to get some exposure against some very good players,” said Bird. “The Tampa Bay Rays gave me some restrictions to protect me like no more than 25 innings of pitching and, if I pitch two days in a row, I get the next day completely off.”
For his five seasons of minor league play, Bird is 15-7 with a 2.64 ERA in 185 games. His batting average against his pitching was just .198 with 88 strikeouts and a 10.51 strikeout mark per nine innings ratio. Bird allowed just 108 walks in 307 minor league innings.
Bird graduated from Clay High in 2011 where he earned a scholarship to Florida State, but eventually transferred for his final season at Flagler College in St. Augustine.
“It’s ironic how I was mainly a reliever for FSU, a starting pitcher for Flagler, and now am coming in as a reliever from the minors,” said Bird. “My goal is to just keeping work hard and hope the next call is the big one. I’m not quite at the ‘Big Show’ yet, but I’m a little closer.”
In 2014, Bird was drafted in the 35th round by Tampa Bay. He is married to wife Lauren with daughter Emory, now seven months old.