With Sunday marking the deadline for MLB teams to submit their initial 60-man player pools, three former Bearkats find themselves on 40-man rosters heading into a shortened 2020 season.
Ex-Sam Houston State standouts Caleb Smith, Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan Tepera are among the MLB players set to report to team facilities for summer camp in the coming days. Former Bearkat Tyler Eppler will be joining the Washington Nationals as a non-roster invitee, after going 4-4 with a 4.03 ERA last year in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball Organization.
O’Hearn enters the upcoming season with an abundance of excitement surrounding him, following a scorching start to spring training. The Kansas City Royals even sent out a social media post Monday with the caption, “When we hit pause on #RoyalsST, Ryan was the hottest in the office,” honoring O’Hearn and his teammate Ryan McBroom.
The 26-year-old first baseman was batting .343 and slugging .857 with five home runs and a 1.252 on-base percentage when the COVID-19 pandemic forced MLB to suspend play in March.
Smith, a Huntsville native, is expected to be an integral part of the Miami Marlins’ 2020 plans — as he has been since arriving prior to the 2018 season.
After having his first year in Miami cut short due to shoulder surgery, Smith posted a 3-1 record and 2.38 earned run average through his first nine starts of 2019. He went on to battle a hip issue the rest of the year, resulting in missed games and a drop-off in production, but he’s optimistic about entering the 2020 season at full-strength.
Tepera will be looking to make an impact for a deep Chicago Cubs bullpen, after spending his first five seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. The 32-year-old went 0-2 with a 4.98 ERA in 22 relief appearances and one start last season, but arrives in Chicago with a track record as a reliable reliever.
In 215⅓ career innings, Tepera has 203 strikeouts, 77 walks and a 1.16 WHIP, with a 12-11 overall record.
Opening day is scheduled for July 23.