Drew Hayes put brush to canvass this spring and painted his way to the Major Leagues and the Reds bought the art on Wednesday.
"If spring training was simply a blank canvass, Drew would have painted his way onto the ballclub," Bryan Price said. "He had one of the better springs. It wasn't a totally open tryout. There were certain guys who were on the roster, certain guys had first crack. He put himself in a better place than he was two years ago."
The invitation to spring training this season was the third for Hayes. He was in spring training in 2013 and 14 but was not invited in 2015 but two seasons of winter ball made a big difference.
Hayes went to the Domincan Winter League to pitch for the Estrellas de Orientales in San Pedro de Macoris.
“I had a couple opportunities to play winter ball and get better,” said Hayes, who played under Dean Treaner, who manages Pittsburgh’s Triple A team in Indianapolis. ‘I learned enough spanish to get by. We had good crowds. It was intense. Our team was the regular season champion. That part was fun, a high intensity atmosphere.”
The competition and environment gave Hayes a taste of what a Major League pennant race is all about.
“I faced some really good hitters,” Hayes said. “Pitching in those environments, there is a lot of pressure there to win. The more you pitch to good hitters in those situations, the more opportunities you have to get better. I was able to keep working on my stuff and try to improve against hitters like Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and Miguel Tejada. There are some really good players that have had some quality time in the big leagues.”
Now the 6‘1“ right-hander was a star athlete in McKenzie, Tennessee. He was named Player of the Year by the Tennessee Coaches Association in 2006. He was a three-time All-State football player and Mr. Football in 2005, amassing the second most passing yards in state history. He was all-district in basketball.
That type of athlete rises quickly to the top but Hayes has used patience. The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Hayes in the 22nd round in 2006. He went to play baseball at Bethel College instead. The Seattle Mariners called his name in the 22nd round in 2009. Hayes went to Vanderbilt to pitch along Major Leaguers, David Price, Mike Minor and Sonny Gray.
The long road reached Cincinnati after he was told last night after the game in Louisville.
"Ted Power called me in and Delino DeShields shook my hand and hugged me," Hayes said. "I knew what it meant. He was smiling. I went to my apartment and celebrated with my roommate Chris Berset. I drove up this morning. I took it slow to enjoy the scenery."
Hayes was disappointed but took the assignment to Louisville in stride.
"There are worse places to pitch than Louisville," Hayes said. "When I played in the winter league it made me realize I had a lot to be thankful for. Everyone has doubts once in awhile but I try to have fun and enjoy playing. I'm thankful to be here. I'm thankful to my friends and family for their support. When I was sent down I told Bryan that I was thankful for the opportunity and asked him what I could do to be better, what would make me a better player in your'all's eyes. There was no animosity, there was no bitterness or anything like that. I wasn't in Major League camp the year before and they thought enough of me to bring me this year to perform on that stage and gave me the opportunity to impress them."
Hayes last pitched on Sunday throwing two hitless innings against Toledo.
The Reds sent Robert Stephenson to Louisville and designated Keyvius Sampson for assignment.