Chris Resop's flight path to the Pirates' bullpen was more of a frequent flyer's dream than a professional pitcher's expected route.
Then again, he started out an outfielder, so everything in pro ball for him since has been unexpected.
That route for Resop, the Florida Marlins' fourth-round draft choice in 2001: Jupiter, Fla., to Utica, N.Y., back to Jupiter, to Greensboro, N.C., to the mound (after 84 games, a .171 average and 21 RBIs) to Raleigh, N.C., to the Marlins, to Albuquerque, N.M., to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim via trade to the Bees of Salt Lake City to the Atlanta Braves via waiver claim to Richmond, Va., to Japan, to Jackson, Miss., to Gwinnett, Ga., to the Braves for one outing (June 15) ...
And finally, to Pittsburgh after his second time being released by Atlanta.
Wait, back up four moves.
Hai (that's yes). He toiled for the Hanshin Tigers at the end of 2008 and their farm team for 2009.
"All in all, I would say it was a good experience," Resop said from a Pirates clubhouse where fellow new bullpen mate, Chan Ho Park of South Korea, was asking him for assistance with some paperwork.
"I was 25 years old. It was good. One, obviously financially. And, two, it would give me my free agency when I came back. Because I had two years of minor league rights before I left. So, if I had stayed, I would have spent last year and this year in the minors."
Hanshin, among other Japanese teams, scouted him in Class AAA Richmond once the Braves designated him for assignment and he cleared waivers in July 2008. At the time, two Hanshin pitchers left that club to prepare for the Olympics in Beijing. So Resop signed, went east -- Far East -- and pitched eight games, four of them starts, for an 0-2 record and 6.75 ERA. He played on the same team as current Boston Red Sox reliever Scott Atchison and 2001-06 Pirates pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, ironically enough pitching nowadays for the same Salt Lee Bees in the Angels' system as Resop did three years ago.
For the next season, 2009, Hanshin essentially buried him. He worked only 12 minor league games in relief, going 1-1 with a 5.21 ERA.
"It all fell apart, really. It was tough for me mentally," Resop said. "There'd be stretches, I'd go 25 games without pitching. One stretch, I went 56 games."
So he returned home, signed with Atlanta, became a starting pitcher for the first time in his 10-year sojourn and ... wound up plucked by the Pirates off waivers Aug. 4 after just one appearance in his second Braves go-round. That outing? Five runs, five hits and three walks in two innings against Tampa Bay.
"I enjoyed it," Resop said of Japan. "I learned some things about pitching and stuff; I developed a changeup over there. Maybe it was supposed to be my path. I'm here now."
The Pirates, who liked his fastball, turned him loose without tinkering or orders. ("I've asked," he said. "If there's something they want to change, let's change it. They've said nothing.") Whatever, a fellow with a 6.14 ERA in 58 games with the Marlins, Angels and Braves suddenly became a reliever with a 1.23 ERA through eight games with the Pirates.
Entering Saturday, he had retired 16 of his past 20 batters while allowing just one hit and no runs. He had struck out eight of the past 26. So he must've learned more about relieving in the Land of the Rising Sun.
"Would I go back to Japan?" Resop wondered aloud. "Probably. Maybe at the end of my career."
This list was revised here once already, in the June 20 "On The Pirates," after the call-ups of Pedro Alvarez (No. 1 prospect starting this season), Jose Tabata (No. 2) and Brad Lincoln (No. 4, disqualified from this list due to major league action even though he's back in Class AAA).
So let's try this Pirates prospects ranking once more, post-trades/draft/signings;
• Ju-u-u-u-u-st a bit outside: Chase d'Arnaud, SS; Robbie Grossman, OF; Diego Moreno, RHP; Colton Cain, LHP; Aaron Pribanic, RHP; Tim Alderson, RHP
With the Pirates battling, and some days beating, Baltimore in the race for the No. 1 pick in next June's draft, perhaps it's time to study up on the Class of 2011. It's purported to be as rich in college position players as the 2005 draft that starred Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki ... and Jeff Clement:
• Ju-u-u-u-u-st a bit outside: Travis Harrison, 3B, Tustin, Calif., High; Jack Armstrong, RHP, Vanderbilt; Levi Michael, SS, North Carolina; Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso, Okla., High.
I developed a changeup [playing in Japan]. Maybe it was supposed to be my path. I'm here now."