Bridgeport, CT—When Rick Asadoorian stepped to the plate at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard on May 28 as the designated hitter for the Bridgeport Bluefish, some fans and teammates may have been confused. Why was Asadoorian, a pitcher, the designated hitter? Though the relief pitcher has much more experience driving in the big runs with the wooden bat then meets the eye.
Asadoorian was the first round draft pick (17th overall) of the Boston Red Sox in the 1999 MLB Amateur Entry Draft. The First Team All-American centerfielder from Northbridge High School was getting the opportunity of a lifetime: To play for his favorite boyhood team growing up, the Boston Red Sox.
“I can’t explain it,” said Asadoorian. “Just imagine being a Yankees or Cubs fan getting drafted. Those are the teams that everyone is passionate about and that’s how it is in Boston. To grow up and say all of a sudden that you’re going to play for them, I didn’t know what to say.”
Though the sixth ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization in 2000, according to Baseball America, never could pan out and struggled to find a groove in Single-A. After just two seasons, the Red Sox traded Asadoorian to the St. Louis Cardinals in a package deal for Dustin Hermanson.
Asadoorian believes that getting out of Boston was the best thing for his career. It took away a lot of the pressure that was on the 20-year-old’s shoulders.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself trying to be the next big thing for the Red Sox. Especially because not only was I trying to help my career, but I was a fan,” said the Whitinsville, Mass. native. “You have to be able to separate the two, and at the time I didn’t know how to do that.”
The trade was just the beginning of an unknown future for the slugger. It was the first of what would be four different Major League organizations that tried to use Asadoorian as either an outfielder or designated hitter. Asadoorian’s best season would come in 2004 at Frisco (AA, Texas) of the Texas League. He posted a career high .288 batting average with 66 hits and 28 runs.
Ironically, Asadoorian ended up in the Texas Rangers organization via a trade for Esteban Yan, a current member of the Bridgeport Bluefish pitching staff.
“Of course he doesn’t remember, but I remember, that’s for sure,” said Asadoorian. “He was a decent name back then. He was a pretty dominating pitcher in the big leagues. It was a cool experience seeing my name on SportsCenter about the trade.”
On July 5, 2006, Asadoorian’s career took a new shift, this time as a member of the Cincinnati Reds organization. Playing in left field for Chattanooga (AA, Reds) against West Tenn (AA, Seattle), Asadoorian was called upon to pitch in the 12th inning after the Lookouts relief core had pitched six innings. Surprisingly, the left fielder struck out five batters and gave up two hits in two innings to earn the victory.
It was not as shocking to Asadoorian because he had actually pitched every now and then all the way up until his senior year of high school. During his senior year, his team had plenty of pitching and he had just wanted to focus on being a center fielder.
Asadoorian pitched in another two games in 2006, remaining stellar, and the Reds moved him to the bullpen fulltime in 2007.
“I did the outfield and hitting thing for a pretty long time and I just feel like pitching is a fresh way for me to get a new love for the game,” said Asadoorian. “It was just one of those things that I needed at the time. I was getting bounced around here and there as an outfielder. I wanted some stability.”
On the mound, Asadoorian soared through Sarasota (A, Reds) easier than he ever had as an outfielder. It took him just 12 games to get to Chattanooga (AA, Reds) where he went 1-1 with a 3.59 ERA in 52.2 innings. He fanned 48 Double-A batters as well.
Asadoorian had his biggest taste of big league ball last year when he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was invited to big league camp. He struggled at Jacksonville (AA, Dodgers) though and eventually ended up pitching for Somerset of the Atlantic League the rest of the year.
Instead of being the batter walking back to the dugout with his head down after striking out, the righty is now sending batters away frustrated. His “still-developing” pitching repertoire of a fastball, a split-finger, a changeup, and a slider has helped him post a 4.38 ERA in a limited amount of opportunities this season for the ‘Fish.
The Bluefish starting pitchers have been lasting deep into games this season and with a large bullpen, it has been tough for Asadoorian to get work.
“I try to continuously work on my pitching,” said the 28-year-old. “Basically, I will try to get the work done before the game, after the game or whenever I can to keep myself ready. You want to be ready to do well when given the chance.”
Asadoorian has not given up on his dream, even if it has taken a new path. “The ultimate goal for everybody growing up is to play in the big leagues. The talent that’s here in this league makes it a realistic goal to get back into affiliated ball,” said Asadoorian.
“I’ve played in both Double-A and Triple-A. Coming here every day and playing in the Atlantic League is just as good as playing in those leagues. I’m fortunate, and everyone is fortunate to have this league here.”