The Texas Rangers have a lot more Tennessee in them this season at both the major league and minor league levels.
Former Austin Peay hurler Shawn Kelley signed a one-year contract with the club and is expected to be part of the bullpen. He’ll receive $2.5 million, according to mlb.com, with another $500,000 available in incentives, and a $2.5 million club option for 2020. Kelley, who reached the big leagues in 2009, pitched for Washington and Oakland last season.
Kelley will join a staff that includes former Vanderbilt pitcher Mike Minor, who posted a 12-8 record with the Rangers last season. Minor, according to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, is expected to be the club’s opening-day starter.
The Rangers have a new working agreement as the Class AAA Pacific Coast League franchise in Nashville. Former Memphis Christian Brothers High School player Logan Forsythe recently signed a minor league contract and was invited to the major league camp.
But one of the coolest minor-league contract stories belongs to former Lipscomb University pitcher Chris Nunn.
MLB.com writer T.R. Sullivan chronicled the story of how Nunn, using a video that went viral, landed a minor league deal. Nunn, drafted by the Padres in 2012, had bounced around the minor leagues, including independent leagues. He even went back to Lipscomb in 2016 to work on a master’s degree in business as well as doing some modeling work.
He found minor league work again, including time in the Cubs and Astros organizations, his brief time with the Cubs being with the Class AA Tennessee Smokies. He had been hampered with a hip injury, but this off-season he began working with a physical therapist, and he felt enough looseness in his hip that he began throwing well.
In fact, he was throwing in the 90 mph range, even reaching 97. He used @PitchingNinja and the Flatground app to get video of his workout noticed. The Rangers saw his performance and signed him to a minor league contract. The potential is that Nunn could be pitching for the AAA club in Nashville.
“That’s like a dream come true to have a chance to pitch in my hometown of Nashville,” Nunn told Sullivan. “Even if I don’t make it to the big leagues this year, just to pitch in Nashville with my family, friends, teammates, and be a vessel to the community, that would be awesome. I’m just thankful that I stayed with it.”
Nunn pitched high school ball at Harding Academy in Memphis. He told the Lipscomb University website in 2016 that, coming from a Christian high school, he found the Christian environment at Lipscomb a strong appeal for him.