Sawyer Gipson-Long had just completed a long bus trip with the Twins’ Double-A affiliate from Wichita, Kan., to San Antonio, Texas, when he got a call from Minnesota player development director Alex Hassan. Knowing that Tuesday was baseball’s Trade Deadline, the 24-year-old right-hander instantly knew what the call was for.
“The Twins are in the running for a World Series this year, and they need dudes to bolster their rotation and make a push,” Gipson-Long said. “I figured they were going to trade some guys away. Never figured it would be me.”
The Twins traded several prospects to upgrade their bullpen, including a few from Wichita. Gipson-Long was the return prospect for the Tigers in the Michael Fulmer trade. While Fulmer just had to change clubhouses at Target Field, Gipson-Long flew from San Antonio to Washington, then to Portland, Maine, where the Erie SeaWolves are in the middle of a two-week New England road trip.
It was a long, unique journey for Gipson-Long, who hasn’t taken a traditional route through pro ball. An academic all-conference player at Mercer University, he was a chemical commerce major who also took pre-med studies. He’d like to go back to school one day and put that to work in a post-playing career in the game, but for now he’s taking a cerebral approach to pitching and seeing where it takes him.
“That stuff interests me just as much as the analytics,” Gipson-Long said. “I think a big part [of success] is how athletic you are and how your body moves, how you eat, how you sleep, how you recover. I think what I want to do … is to help the next generation achieve more.”
While the Tigers have stockpiled highly rated pitching prospects from programs big and small as part of their rebuild, Gipson-Long was an unranked prospect out of Mercer, where he gave up 100 hits over 83 innings in 2019 but struck out 99. He was the Twins’ sixth-round pick that summer.
Gipson-Long came back from the canceled 2020 Minor League season and did more of the same last year; he posted a 4.55 ERA in 19 starts and a relief appearance in Class A ball but struck out 134 batters over 97 innings.