His signing bonus was nothing more than a plane ticket, and his path ahead a daunting one, but Christian Talley was ready to take the dive.
A Mississippi native, Talley was a 26th-round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays three years ago out of Pearl River (Miss.) Community College. He turned down that opportunity for a shot to play at Southern Miss, but after his senior season with the Golden Eagles, he went undrafted in 2015.
Not one of the 1,215 picks, the Colorado Rockies signed him a week after the draft’s conclusion.
“I’ve already seen some other free agent guys get released, but obviously there’s something they liked,” Talley said. “Sometimes you see the highly-drafted guys come in and you wonder if you’ll play less or whatever. But there’s not much time to dwell on it, just have to do what I can on the field.”
In his first season with the short-season Single-A Hawks, Talley has shown he belongs, performing as the team’s top long reliever this summer. The 6-foot-4 right-hander has logged the most innings of any non-starter (15 innings in seven appearances) and has a 1.20 ERA with only seven hits allowed.
“He throws strikes,” pitching coach Doug Jones said. “He’s fearless. He’s not afraid to let guys get the bat on it. Some kids get knocked around, then they’re afraid of it. He’s the kind of guy that can’t wait to get the ball.”
Unheralded leaving Southern Miss after posting a 7-9 record in 30 appearances, including 22 starts, with a 3.15 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 137 innings, Talley felt he needed to impress quickly. With almost nothing invested in him, he felt the leash was short. He had a 7.00 ERA in 36 innings last season in Rookie League Grand Junction (four starts, 12 relief appearances).
“It’s a little tougher. When I first came in, I felt like I had to do everything perfect just to get on the radar,” Talley said.
After what he felt was a strong showing in extended spring training, Talley showed improvements to the powers that be, and it helped him pitch more relaxed.
“Just feeling more confident, not putting that kind of pressure on myself,” Talley said. “I’m here for a reason. I feel I kind of had a chip on my shoulder already, but I didn’t throw as well last year as I’d hoped, so it kind of got bigger.”
At 24 years old, Talley is the eldest player on the team’s active roster. Jones said he’s been a steady presence, the primary instigator in breaking up the locker room boredom. Talley said he doesn’t feel time is running out to move up. He might have an ideal person to look up to in Jones, who played four games for Milwaukee at 25, but didn’t return to the majors until he was 29 and wound up making five All-Star teams.
“I don’t feel worried about it. The coaches are happy with what I’ve done, so that helps,” Talley said. “The people above have made good decisions so far. I’m happy to be in Boise and be where I’m at.”