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Blood Clots Almost Ended His Career, Now Bees Reliever Kenyon Yovan Is One Call From MLB

May 22, 2024, 1:39 PM

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SALT LAKE CITY –  Climbing the minor league baseball ladder is no picnic, but for Salt Lake Bees relief pitcher Kenyon Yovan, just having the chance to reach the big leagues as a pitcher is more than he could have hoped for after his pitching career was seemingly derailed in 2019.

Yovan’s journey has been circuitous since blood clots in his right wrist ended his junior season at the University of Oregon. Three months after a 72-hour stint in the ICU to break up the clot, doctors found a golf ball-sized clot in his right shoulder.

“If it wasn’t for the prospect list, they (doctors) said that I was a month away from losing my hand, my arm, or dying,” Yovan said. 

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Doctor’s told Yovan he was unlikely to play baseball again, let alone pitch. With his playing career in the balance, Yovan leaned on his teammates and family. 

“My parents were amazing through everything. I’m an only child so my parents, grandparents, uncle, and cousins visited me. My whole team came and visited me in the hospital. It made life a lot easier through a really hard time.”

Self-described as someone that hit the ball hard but didn’t make a lot of contact, Yovan went to work on his plate approach to become a better hitter.

“My coaches always told me, ‘Don’t lose your edge’. Whether I was hitting or pitching, trying to ride the fine line of cocky and confident. I was trying to keep that edge through really hard times. I went through a lot of lows the first six months trying to figure out how to hit again.”

The hard work paid off when he became the first player in  program history to be named First-Team All-Pac-12 as both a pitcher and a hitter.

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Following the end of his Oregon career in 2021, Yovan signed with the Angels as an undrafted free agent but struggled at the plate in High-A. After hitting .214 with limited power across 61 games with Tri-City, coaches approached Yovan with the idea of pitching again. 

He was throwing a bullpen session from the mound before the end of the day.

‘I went and threw in the bullpen for about three weeks. Then I went down to Arizona and threw in the ACL (Arizona Complex League) before going to low-A for the rest of the year.”

Yovan threw 20.1 innings in 2022, finishing with a 1.77 ERA in 17 appearances.

The Oregon native opened 2023 in Double-A, making 44 appearances before a promotion to Salt Lake in early September. He stumbled to a 10.38 ERA with the Bees, giving up two or more earned runs in four of eight games.

Yovan has made eight appearances out of the Bees bullpen this season, relying on guts and confidence to go with a fastball, slider mix.

“Going out there knowing you’re the guy, they’re calling on you for a reason so you gotta get the job done. It’s such a mental game, I’m just trying to find myself and consistently do the same thing.”

About Kenyon Yovan

A two-way star at Westview High School in Oregon, Yovan earned The Oregonian’s Brian T. Meehan Memorial Baseball Player of the Year award and was the USA Today Player of the Year as part of the 2016 All-USA Oregon Baseball Team. After being named first-team 6A all-state, the Seattle Mariners selected Yovan in the second round of the 2016 MLB Player Draft.

The 6’2 righty grew up as an Oregon Duck fan and turned down his first chance at pro baseball to pursue a national championship with the Ducks. Yovan was dynamite in his first season in Eugene, earning a series of individual awards as a two-way player. Yovan was named the Collegiate Baseball Freshman of the Year, earning a spot on First-Team All-Pac-12 Conference First-Team and NCBWA First-Team All-America.

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His excellence on the mound continued as a sophomore. Yovan was named First-Team All-Pac-12 Conference after going 6-4 with a superb 2.98 ERA and five saves in 21 appearances (ten starts) in 2018. At the plate, he hit .233 with nine extra-base hits and 12 RBI.

Blood clots in Yovan’s throwing arm ended his 2019 season after one start.

After COVID-19 limited him to 56 at-bats in 2020, Yovan exploded at the plate in 2021. As a full-time designated hitter, he slashed .309/.407/.608 with ten doubles, 17 home runs, and 57 RBI. Yovan became the first player in Oregon history to earn All-America recognition as a pitcher (2017) and a hitter (2020). He also made his third appearance on First-Team All-Pac-12 Conference.

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Salt Lake host the Albuquerque Isotopes  Tuesday, May 21, through Sunday, May 26.  First pitch on Thursday is at 6:35 p.m. MT. The Isotopes are the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

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Blood Clots Almost Ended His Career, Now Bees Reliever Kenyon Yovan Is One Call From MLB