To say baseball has taken former USC pitcher Andrew Triggs around the country would be an understatement. The 27-year-old career minor leaguer has played for teams in Idaho Falls, Kane County, Wilmington, Northwest Arkansas, Omaha, Bowie and Nashville — most Americans would be hardpressed to find half of these places on a map.
Even when he finally received his call-up to the big leagues earlier this season with the Oakland Athletics, Triggs was optioned — sent back and forth between the minors (Nashville) and the majors (Oakland) — eight times between April 25 and Aug. 5. His eight separate stints are believed to be the most in Oakland history in a single season — or, as Triggs calls it, a “dubious record.”
Speaking with the Daily Trojan following a start against the Baltimore Orioles two weeks ago at the Oakland Coliseum (he took the loss after allowing 3 earned runs in four innings), Triggs took his travel chaos in stride.
“It’s fun,” Triggs said. “You’re pitching for opportunities. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It beats the alternative of not being [in the majors]. I can’t be more thankful for [the A’s] organization so far, giving me the opportunity to pitch, to go out there and compete.”
Triggs was at USC from 2008-2012, redshirting his first year. USC dubbed him the “surprise of the team” his freshman season on his bio page, and he admitted he caught a few breaks that allowed him to shine.
He began his first year pitching out of the bullpen, but got a chance to start when the team played a rare four-game series against Winthrop. He toed the rubber in the final game. The following week, USC faced the rival Bruins at home and Triggs was fully expecting to return to the bullpen. But a starter went down with an injury, and the freshman was pressed into action against a conference foe in front of a big crowd.
“For me, it was like, ‘Woah, UCLA,’” Triggs said.
Triggs pitched seven scoreless innings that game as USC beat UCLA, and from there, he was one of the go-to starters at the top of the rotation. He was a Pac-10 Conference honorable mention his freshman season and entered the following year as the No. 1 starter.
He wound up being drafted in the 19th round in 2012 by the Kansas City Royals, beginning a five-year odyssey in the minor leagues, with all the perks of long road trips on buses and living in obscure towns. But Triggs enjoyed every second of it.
“I thought it was really fun,” Triggs said. “It’s a great way to see the country and visit places you might not have otherwise known and get to meet people you might not otherwise meet.”
He reverted back to a relief pitcher in the minor leagues, tallying just one start in his career. But he gradually worked his way up from rookie ball to the big leagues. After being claimed off waivers by the A’s in March, Triggs pitched 16 games in Triple-A Nashville before getting the call-up.
It isn’t too common to see a career minor leaguer of Triggs’ age make it onto a major league roster, but the 27-year-old kept believing he would.
“The biggest separator is the guys who make it to the big leagues know that they will,” he said. “Keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
Triggs said he still follows USC baseball and exchanges texts with head coach Dan Hubbs, who was a coach when Triggs was on the team. He credits USC for helping him make the adjustment to the big leagues as a starter. Injuries forced the A’s to scramble for starting pitchers earlier this season, and Triggs was called upon.
It hasn’t exactly been all balloons and streamers for Triggs in the majors so far. He is still looking for his first major league win and has a 4.38 ERA in 22 games pitched — four of them starts. His ERA though has decreased steadily by month — it is at 2.25 through six games in August — and his best start came on Monday against the Indians when he threw six scoreless innings.
Perhaps this means he won’t add on to that “dubious” record of being sent down to the minors another time this year. Perhaps he’s earned a spot on a major-league roster for good — or, at least, that’s the plan.
“Without getting too grandiose, the goal is to own the right to stay,” Triggs said. “You want to develop in a role where you’re pitching in more high-leverage situations. For me, it’s about that next outing — just get the first guy out and the next guy out and the third guy out. That’s the way I have to look at it right now.”
Clichés aside, Triggs is indeed taking it one step at a time.
“Sure, long term you want to earn the right to stay,” Triggs said. “You want to work into a role where you’re pitching meaningful innings and really close games and take it from there. Step one is getting the next guy out.”