Hayes' long wait ends with callup to Reds

28-year-old right-hander spent six years in Minors

Hayes' long wait ends with callup to Reds

CINCINNATI -- After Triple-A Louisville lost to Columbus on Tuesday night, pitching coach Ted Power summoned reliever Drew Hayes. Once Hayes walked over and turned the corner, he found manager Delino DeShields smiling at him.

Immediately, Hayes knew he was going to Cincinnati. No words were necessary.

"He just kind of gave me a handshake and a hug. And that was it," said Hayes, who came up after starter Robert Stephenson was optioned back to Louisville. "Delino and I have a special relationship. I played with him at Rookie ball, Low A, two years at Double-A and last year at Triple-A."

Hayes, 28, finally reached the Major Leagues after more than six years in the Minors. He first started coming to big league camp at Spring Training four years ago, but there were times that his progress stalled.

The right-handed Hayes spent three-plus seasons at Double-A Pensacola from 2012-15, but he didn't give up. He also wasn't deterred when he was not invited to big league camp in 2015.

"You had to look reality in the face, and that's where I was in that point in time," Hayes said. "I had to make adjustments or I was going to go home. It made me appreciate the game even more, and appreciate the opportunities I was getting even more.

"I went and played winter ball for two years in the Dominican Republic, which really helped me quite a bit. Honestly, that made me appreciate things a lot more seeing things the way they were there, and the joy those people get from the game."

Hayes posted a 2.95 ERA in 43 games for Louisville last season, with an 8.69 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio that was the fourth best among relievers in the International League.

Invited back to big league camp this spring, Hayes had his first legitimate shot at making the club, and he came close. A 0.82 ERA over nine Cactus League games (with one run allowed over 11 innings) put him on the short list if there was a need.

"He had one of the better springs. If Spring Training was simply a blank canvas, he would have painted his way onto the ballclub," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It wasn't totally open tryouts. There are certain guys who are on the roster, certain guys who are going to get first crack. He was disappointed when he didn't make the club. … I'm really excited for Drew, he's a good kid, he came up through the organization and he's earned his right to be here."

Hayes was born and resides in McKenzie, Tenn., a four-plus-hour drive from Cincinnati. His parents, Glenn and Joyce, were planning on making the drive up on Thursday to hopefully see him pitch. They would have come up immediately, but Hayes' mother had to work. He looked forward to showing his appreciation.

"I'm just thankful to the Reds for giving me the opportunity," he said. "Thankful for everybody that's helped me along the way -- parents, coaches, high school coaches. I talked to my parents last night and my high school football coach this morning, my brother this morning -- people that believed in me the whole way. I'm thankful for being able to be here representing my hometown."

To make room for Hayes on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Keyvius Sampson was designated for assignment. Sampson was optioned to Triple-A Louisville on Saturday.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.