By Jonathan Hodgson
Canadian Baseball Network
With a three-pitch strikeout on Tuesday night, Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Andrew Kittredge officially became a major league baseball player. He also became the second alum of the Okotoks Dawgs to reach the majors.
Kittredge, a native of Spokane, Wash., was recalled by the Rays on Sunday, and after watching Monday’s game against the Oakland A’s from the bullpen, The 6-foot-1, 200-pound righty was summoned to start the bottom of the eighth inning with the Rays trailing the A’s, 3-2 at the Oakland Coliseum.
Kittredge delivered three perfect 86-mile-per-hour sliders to retire his first batter, center fielder Jaycob Brugman, swinging for his first strikeout.
Former Blue Jay Rajai Davis then lined a 94-mile-per-hour heater to center for a single before Kittredge got shortstop Marcus Semien to ground out.
Kittredge was removed from the game with two outs in the eighth inning, narrowly missing out on his first major league win, as the Rays scored two runs in the top of the ninth to take the 4-3 lead, and ultimately, secure a victory.
His debut came after honing his craft for six years in the minor leagues, and was the culmination of a process that started long before that.
The Seattle Mariners originally drafted Kittredge in the 45th round in 2008 out of Ferris High School in his hometown of Spokane, Wash., but he elected to play collegiate ball at the University of Washington (NCAA Div. 1; Pac-12).
After appearing in 49 games in his career for the Huskies, starting 22, compiling an 11-12 record with six saves, Kittredge reported to Okotoks, Alta., to play for the Dawgs (Western Major Baseball League) in the summer of 2011 in hopes of landing a professional contract.
The body of work was strong for Kittredge in Okotoks, posting a 2-2 record with a 3.52 ERA in 10 appearances, four of which were starts. However, it was his relief work and his playoff performances that separated him.
Kittredge allowed just two runs on four hits with four strikeouts over six regular season relief appearances, and then dominated during the Dawgs run to the WMBL Championship Series. Using his low-90’s fastball and slider, Kittredge allowed just one hit with no walks and four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings out of the bullpen, en route to recording five saves in the Dawgs’ seven playoff victories.
Losses to the team’s pitching staff late in the season pressed him back into making a start in the championship series, his only blemish, having not started a game for nearly a month.
His five playoff saves is still a record in Okotoks and the WMBL.
“Andrew was one of our top arms that summer, and yes I had the thought even then that I would see him on TV one day,” said Jared Rogers. A junior out of Hofstra University in 2011, Rogers was 4-0, leading the team with a 1.54 ERA.
“Kittredge was one of the quieter guys until he got onto the field,” said Rogers. “As a pitcher, he wants to take your lunch money. As a guy, he wants to be one of your best friends.”
Kittredge was far from the only star on a talent-laden Dawgs team that won a team-record 34 games that season.
Four players from that squad would go on to be drafted, including catcher Jordan Procyshen, an Okotoks native who is now playing double-A for the Boston Red Sox. Calgary outfielder Tyler Hollick, who led the team with a .407 batting average, would be drafted the next year by the San Francisco Giants and play three years in the Giants organization.
Arizona State outfielders Kasey Coffman and Trever Allen would star with the Dawgs before each being drafted. Coffman played three years in the Tigers organization while Allen, son of former Calgary Cannon and Seattle Mariner Jamie Allen, played two seasons in the Angels system.
The Mariners kept an eye on their former draftee, Kittredge, and following the Dawgs' four-game loss to the Regina Red Sox in the WMBL Championship Series, signed him to a minor league free agent contract.
Kittredge finished 2011 with the Everett AquaSox (short-season), pitched at three levels in his first full professional season a year later, and by 2013, had reached triple-A Tacoma.
After spending the bulk of 2014 with High Desert (advanced-A), Kittredge bounced between Tacoma and the Jackson Generals (double-A) in 2015 and 2016.
Following a strong 2016 season at triple-a Tacoma where he posted a 3.55 ERA in 23 appearances with seven saves, Kittredge was shipped to the Tampa Bay Rays along with another minor league pitcher and an infielder, in an offseason trade that sent infielders Taylor Motter and Richie Shaffer to the Mariners.
Kittredge took advantage of a fresh start in a new organization, being named an International League (triple-A) all star with his 1.90 ERA in 30 appearances with the Durham Bulls, striking out 54 against just 12 walks in 52 innings pitched. It was by far the strongest of his four triple-A seasons.
Kittredge was teammates with another former Dawg, outfielder Cade Gotta, who played in Okotoks in 2013 and was drafted in the 26th round in 2014.
An appearance in the triple-A All-Star Game meant a visit back to Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, where Kittredge played parts of three seasons for the Rainiers. He worked 2/3 of an inning in the game for the International League, a contest won 6-4 by the host Pacific Coast League, and five days later received the call to join the Rays in Oakland.
Kittredge joins right-handed pitcher Jim Henderson (Calgary, Alta.) as the second former Dawg to reach the major leagues. Henderson, a Dawgs Academy product, reached the majors in 2012 with the Milwaukee Brewers and pitched in 155 games in four major league seasons with the Brewers and New York Mets.
If Kittredge keeps pitching like he did in his debut, he could very well become a factor in the American League East pennant race, with the Rays trailing the Boston Red Sox by just two games.
It was just the first of hopefully many outings, but Kittredge’s first foray onto a major league mound at the Oakland Coliseum was reminiscent of his time toeing the rubber at Seaman Stadium.