Eddie McKiernan got two wake-up calls last month.
The first one interrupted his nap, giving him two hours to pack his bags for Salt Lake City. He'd been called up for his third triple-A stint, and he'd be starting the next day.
That was the second. Pitching at Spring Mobile Ballpark for the first time since 2010, he was shelled for 11 runs in two innings against Colorado Springs.
"It just hit me in the face real quick, and I was off the mound," he says. "It was tough. â¦ That was definitely one of the worst outings of my life."
Welcome to the whirlwind life of a minor league ballplayer.
McKiernan, now 23, was drafted by the Angels in the 17th round in 2007. A former league and area MVP at Monrovia High in Southern California, he turned down a free ride to UNLV for an early start in the pros. Division I baseball teams can give out only 11.7 scholarships a year, which meant that McKiernan was one of the few offered a full package. It wasn't tempting enough.
"This is my dream, so why not just do it right away instead of waiting three years?" he says.
The ride hasn't since been smooth. When he was drafted five years ago news he first discovered on the Internet McKiernan wasn't even familiar with the various levels of minor league baseball. He's since bounced up to triple-A and back down to double-A, switched between reliever and starter, and traveled across more than 20 states. On Monday, he starts against Reno with a 3-2 record and 7.77 ERA.
If McKiernan represents one end of the prospect spectrum, Trevor Bauer sits at the other. Due for a major league call-up, the Reno starter struck out five Bees on 32 pitches before loading the bases and getting an early hook Sunday. Still, he kept his perfect record, avoiding credit for the loss as Salt Lake won for the second time in 12 games a 5-3 decision before a home crowd of 4,013.
Unlike McKiernan, Bauer skipped the draft entirely as a high schooler, graduating early to commit to UCLA. After he had a College World Series appearance and a host of national awards, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him third overall in 2011 and gave him a $3.2 million signing bonus.
McKiernan sometimes thinks about the college career he gave up, but he doesn't regret a thing. The end goal is a big league paycheck; if the path is paved with uncertainty, so be it. He may be thicker and more bearded than the brace-faced kid the Angels took a shot on, but he's still young and he still has time.
"The end prize is definitely worth it. â¦ You learn to adapt and deal with it," McKiernan says. "You're playing baseball and you love it, so you can't really complain too much."
Bees 5, Aces 3
R Kole Calhoun and Cory Aldridge each hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning as Salt Lake beats Reno.
• Bees reliever Matt Meyer (1-0) tossed 11â3 scoreless innings to earn the victory.