The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Justin Bruihl after he went undrafted in 2017 and after a few impressive Minor League seasons, the southpaw was called up to the active roster for the Freeway Series finale.
Bruihl made his MLB that same day and pitched the final 1.2 innings of the Dodgers’ 8-2 win over the L.A. Angels. He also became the 32nd pitcher the club has used this season, which set a new franchise record.
“It was pretty surreal. I’m still trying to process it all a little bit. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous,” Bruihl said about his debut.
“But after I got that first batter out, things kind of started to settle down for me and I calmed down a little bit. It was pretty awesome and something I dreamt of my whole life. It was pretty much everything I ever wished it would be.”
Bruihl started the season pitching for Double-A Tulsa and quickly earned a promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City after throwing 15 innings with a 1.20 ERA while striking out 37% of the batters faced.
With OKC, Bruihl continued to pitch well, throwing 22.2 innings with a 3.57 ERA and striking out 33.3% of hitters before getting another promotion.
While making it to the highest level of the game after starting in Double-A did come as somewhat of a surprise to him, Bruihl is ready for his chance to show the Dodgers he can help them win.
“It definitely was a little bit shocking. I wouldn’t say I didn’t expect it, because this was my goal to start the year,” Bruihl said. “I wanted to make it to the big leagues this year. A little bit surprising, but at the same time I felt like I was ready for it.”
Most undrafted players never get the chance to reach their dreams of playing Major League Baseball, and starting the season at Double-A and earning a promotion to MLB in a single season is usually something only the best prospects can accomplish.
For Bruihl, he was able to overcome the odds on both, which has given him an incredibly unique road to the Dodgers.
“Pretty up and down, I’d say,” Bruihl said about how the last few years have been. “Since I got here, never really a high prospect or anything, kind of had to make my own path to get here.
“Didn’t pitch well in High-A until this year, so I started in Double-A. Even then, in ’19, I was in High-A for 10 days, I think. So it’s been pretty hard, but I’m finally starting to put things together the last couple years and getting to where I need to be.”
Bruihl credited his rapid rise to the development of his cutter and slider, which are his primary pitches that allow him to excel at getting strikeouts. He said the Dodgers’ coaching staff told him to stick with those two pitches because that is what made him successful.
“I think my cutter and slider play off each other really well. They look like the same pitch a lot of the time out of the hand, so I think that kind of makes hitter guess a lot,” Bruihl noted.
“And it makes my sinker that I throw every once in a while just to run something back over the plate a little bit kind of surprises guys.”
Bruihl settling in
Now that Bruihl has reached his dream, he is working on fitting in with the rest of the players in the clubhouse as he gets acclimated to life as a Major Leaguer.
“When I first got here I was talking to Blake Treinen a little bit. He’s been really nice and made me feel at home,” Bruihl said. “I haven’t really talked much baseball to anybody. Just kind of personal stuff and trying to get to know guys.”
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