BRISTOL - With multiple pitchers becoming unavailable for the Bristol Blues, they needed to bring in some outside help and they found it in Berlin native Jared Gallagher.
Starting pitchers John Arel and John Mormile each left the team for personal reasons recently, so the Blues brought in the rising sophomore out of Central Connecticut State University to bolster the pitching staff.
“I like him,” Blues manager Pat Riley said on Wednesday. “He’s got a good presence on the mound. He’s a crafty lefty. I really think that’s what he is.”
While he is excited for Gallagher to join the team, Riley gave all the credit for bringing him on to the Blues’ general manager.
“That would be the work of our great general manager, Rick Muntean,” he said. “He saw him pitch and he became available to us.”
Muntean had seen Gallagher pitch during a game in mid-March against UConn, where he pitched four innings, gave up two runs on five hits and got the win, and has been impressed since.
“I saw him pitch at UConn and he dealt,” Muntean said. “He looked pretty good and then I found out he was available.”
Before joining the Blues, Gallagher was playing in the Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League for the Manchester Mavericks, but he did not feel at home in the league and is now very excited to be playing for the Blues in the FCBL.
“I was really excited because the league I was in was really laid-back and the talent wasn’t as good and I felt like I wasn’t in my right place,” he said. “But, once I came here, I’ve played with four of the guys on the team already so I knew them and it’s a really good vibe and the environment’s awesome and I think it’s exactly what I needed.”
Both Muntean and Riley have confidence in what Gallagher can bring to the team and that is something that has Gallagher, in turn, excited to perform.
“It’s cool,” he said. “When I went to college, the one coach who recruited me, he knew what I had but most of them didn’t. But for the GM and the head coach to both know really what I have, it was a little less stressful. Obviously, I still had to prove myself but I didn’t have to be somebody who I’m not.”
Gallagher made his first appearance in a Blues uniform on Wednesday in Bristol’s 9-4 home win over the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs. He came out of the bullpen in the seventh inning and, in two innings of work, did not allow a single hit or run and struck out four batters.
After his showing on Wednesday, Riley was thoroughly impressed.
“[It was my] first time seeing him,” he said. “I’m excited. He’s a good addition to our pitching staff, definitely. I really liked his stuff. His breaking pitch, he threw it at 3-2 with a six-run lead and nobody on base. I kind of questioned the call but it was a dynamite pitch.”
Making his debut was a big moment for Gallagher, but he was able to stay in the moment and rise to the occasion.
“Honestly, I was a little nervous,” he said. “We had a big lead so I think that was really helpful, that I could just go out there and just throw and not have to worry about giving up runs. That was the biggest thing. And once I struck the first kid out, even though he reached base, I settled down and I enjoyed it.”
Adding to his nerves about his debut was the fact that it was also his first time in front of the fans at Muzzy Field.
“At first, it was a little nerve-wracking with all those fans,” he said. “But once I kind of focused, I don’t really notice them as much. At first, it’s like, ‘Holy crap, there’s a lot of people here.’ But once you focus, I hear nothing.”
While he came out of the bullpen on Wednesday, Riley alluded to using Gallagher in a starting role going forward and that is a move that Gallagher would not mind, even with the difference in preparation.
“It’s way different because, when you’re sitting out there in the bullpen the first five innings [or so], I was kind of joking around and having fun and then, all of a sudden, boom, it’s time to focus, get hot [and] you’re going in the game,” Gallagher said. “But when you’re starting, you go to bed the night before and you go, ‘I got to start.’ You’ve got to eat well, do everything well and you got to come to the field and be focused from the get-go. It’s not harder, I’d say, it’s just different. I like both roles but I think, if I had to choose, I’d prefer to start rather than coming in for relief.”
The Blues have relied on their pitching all summer as the offense struggles to find its groove and Gallagher hopes he can build off of his first showing and help the Blues find more success.
“If I keep pitching like I did [Wednesday], I think I’ll be very helpful,” he said. “As long as I keep the ball down and hit my spots, I think it’ll be pretty good.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at (860) 973-1811, or firstname.lastname@example.org