Ryan McAuliffe Looks Past Injuries to Benefit from Pro Ball

In their endless pursuit of cost-effective pitching, the New York Mets organization spent the 2017 season dipping into the free agent pool and found modest success with Gunnar Kines and Marty Anderson, who solidified the Brooklyn Cyclones starting rotation. Closer to home, the Mets took a flier on former St. John’s product Ryan McAuliffe as an undrafted free agent, currently in his second season with the Cyclones. 

“I like what I have seen from him,” Cyclones manager Edgardo Alfonzo said of McAuliffe. “He’s a pitcher we need for us to succeed and he’s looked pretty good on the mound. He’s right in the zone, and that’s a good sign for us as a team and a good sign for him (as a competitor).” 

A native of North Reading, Massachusetts, McAuliffe starred at North Essex Community College, earning a spot as a team’s captain while leading them to the Division III World Series in consecutive seasons. His prominence at Division III helped McAuliffe quickly adapt to improved competition in the Big East, where he made 15 starts as a junior with St. John’s before going 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA to close his collegiate tenure and had the opportunity to partake in an NCAA Regional.  

“Obviously, pitching in the World Series in Division III was cool back in Northern Essex,” McAuliffe said. “That was a great atmosphere. I was able to get into. At St. John’s, I played at schools like Florida State or in the Big East Tournament, so I gained some experience pitching in some big games in my life.” 

While McAuliffe performed competently enough to earn a professional contract, an arm injury sustained as a senior curtailed his development. McAuliffe spent stints with the Mets’ rookie clubs in Kingsport and the Gulf Coast acclimating himself to pitching in the pros and trusting his pitch arsenal. With the Cyclones seeking fresh arms to finish their 2017 campaign, McAuliffe advanced to the New York-Penn League, getting exposure to the level in preparation for the upcoming season. 

 “I was with the Cyclones for two weeks last season towards the end of the year,” McAuliffe said. “It was good to get up to this level and to pitch at this atmosphere. I started off this season with the Cyclones and was hoping to do some big things, but injuries got in the way. I was able to get better as a pitcher even though I wasn’t able to pitch much.” 

After pitching to a 2.84 ERA in a brief stint with the Cyclones last season, the expectation for McAuliffe was to pitch in the starting rotation, but a broken fibula interrupted those plans. McAuliffe remained with the team despite spending a month in a walking boot unable to contribute on the mound. Recovery time followed, and McAuliffe returned in a relief role on August 23, pitching a scoreless inning and recording one strikeout against the Connecticut Tigers, regaining his previous form. 

“I felt pretty good on the mound, so it was all about getting in a rhythm. These two months off gave me the time to sit and read hitters,” McAuliffe explains. “Although I haven’t been able to pitch I was able to get better. Injuries are a part of the game, and everybody gets them. You can’t help that. I’m not out there trying to get hurt. I got hurt by a fluke injury just playing catch. It’s all about how you handle adversity and overcoming it.” 

McAuliffe’s recovery provides a boost for the Cyclones down the stretch in pursuit of a wild card position. The Cyclones find themselves amongst six teams vying for one playoff berth and must balance the desire for contention with player development. A healthy McAuliffe adds flexibility to Brooklyn’s bullpen, who look to benefit from his experiences pitching in a championship setting at the collegiate ranks. More importantly is McAuliffe looking past his injury history and proving he’s capable of contributing in professional baseball.  

“It would be cool to win a championship in pro baseball,” McAuliffe said. “Obviously, we have a lot of new draft picks (in the Mets’ system). We have some ACC and SEC guys, who have played top-notch baseball and a bunch of high school guys. I feel like I know exactly what I have to do. I feel like this year was very beneficial to me and I’m going to take it into the offseason.” 

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