Shortly after the completion of the 2015 season, Ryan Sherriff returned to Southern California and took a brief break from baseball.
Following the recess, Sherriff, a former standout pitcher at Glendale Community College, received a suggestion that he immediately took to heart — a change in his pitching delivery.
Sherriff, who is now a reliever with the Memphis Redbirds, the triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, talked to a fellow pitcher, Joe Haumacher, during a workout. Haumacher’s recommendation intrigued Sherriff.
“Joe suggested about thinking about becoming a side-arm pitcher,” said Sherriff, a former All-Western State Conference first-team selection who was drafted by St. Louis in the 28th round in 2011. “It wasn’t something I had thought about because I had more of a traditional delivery coming over the top, but I thought about it and decided to give it a try. Things have been working great. I feel healthy and positive.
“I figured what do I have to lose by learning a new motion? I worked on it a lot leading up to spring training and during spring training and I could see the results pretty much right away.”
Sherriff, a left-hander, missed a portion of last season because of a knee injury while with the double-A Springfield Cardinals.
It’s been a completely different situation for Sherriff, who was 5-0 with a 2.42 earned run average in 52 innings through Monday. He’s struck out 40, walked 17 and recorded one save while providing Memphis with stellar relief.
“My movement and velocity really improved,” said the 6-foot-1 Sherriff. “My groundball rate also went up. It’s been like a huge blessing.
“I’m happy to help any way I can, whether that’s being a set-up guy or a closer. Whatever role they need. I just want to keep working on different things.”
One of the key highlights for Sherriff, 26, was being selected to participate in the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 13 in front of a crowd of 10,386 at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte. Representing the Pacific Coast League, Sherriff faced one batter in the eighth inning and got a groundball to second base on two pitches. The International League recorded a 4-2 win.
It marked the first time Sherriff competed in an all-star game.
“I got a phone call about a week before the game,” Sherriff said. “I was totally honored to be selected and to be able to pitch in the game and be around a lot of excellent players.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about my family and how much they have supported me over the years. Some of my family attended the game.”
Sherriff’s first save of the season came July 9 against at home versus the Round Rock Express. In 1 1/3 innings, Sherriff struck out three to help Memphis complete a 4-1 victory.
He picked up victories in consecutive appearances in late July. Against the Iowa Cubs on July 23, Sherriff gave up one run in one inning in Memphis’ 6-4 home win. Sherriff then allowed one hit in 1 2/3 innings and notched a 6-5 victory against the visiting Oklahoma City Dodgers on July 28.
Memphis catcher Michael Ohlman said Sherriff has helped stabilize the bullpen.
“I’ve worked with him most of the season,” said Ohlman, who is batting .280 with seven doubles, four home runs and 21 runs batted in. “I’ve seen his velocity go up and he’s focusing on the targets.
“He’s been tremendous coming out of the bullpen. He’s been there to keep us in games and give us a chance to win. Then to see him get to the all-star game, where there’s so much talent from our competitive league, was great. He should be proud of himself.”
The Cardinals are 51-57 and tied for second in the league’s American Southern Division. With St. Louis having suffered a rash of injuries, Memphis has recently sent some of its players, including pitchers Jerome Williams and Dean Kiekhefer, catcher Alberto Rosario and outfielder Randal Grichuk, to the parent club.
Perhaps Sherriff will have an opportunity to reach the major leagues.
“When you are in the minor leagues, you have to be ready at any given time,” Sherriff said. “In the meantime, I just have to keep throwing well and maybe my time will come. There’s still plenty of things for me to learn and work on.”