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Cleveland Indians fans who want to express their gratitude to Ryan Merritt for pitching the team to the World Series might have to say thanks with a cutting board, a pair of stainless steel kitchen shears or a Houdini Deluxe bottle opener. They don't have a lot of options left.
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Merritt, 24, etched his name in franchise lore last week when he threw 4 1/3 shutout innings in Cleveland's 3-0 American League Championship Series-clinching victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Amid reports that Merritt is engaged to be married, grateful Cleveland fans scoped out his wedding registry online and rushed to buy gifts for him and Sarah Brushaber, his fiancée.
"It's been crazy," Merritt said Monday during World Series media availability. "Everybody got to it quick. One person found it and sent it out there, and once it hits the media, everyone found out. I'm thinking it's a joke at first. But the next thing you know, (the items) are dropping like crazy.
"There might be one item left -- like bedsheets or something. I think it's been pretty much cleared."
The couple's registry at Pottery Barn and Target has a few items still available, but Merritt is correct when he says the remaining pickings are slim. Even Merritt's Cleveland coaches and teammates who want to contribute have been left with few choices.
"I was messing around with my parents the other night and we said, 'Let's go check it out,"' said Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. "I think there were a couple of pans you can buy, and that was it."
Merritt, a former 16th round draft pick out of McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, is a finesse pitcher who relies on command and control while throwing a fastball in the upper-80s. He's kept a relatively low profile throughout the minor leagues, but he held a powerful Toronto lineup to two singles before giving way to the bullpen in the pennant clincher at Rogers Centre. Merritt has since discovered how deeply his performance resonated with Indians fans.
"Before that game, I could walk down the streets of Cleveland and nobody was going to recognize me," he said. "It's different now. Once in a while somebody will recognize me, and it's neat. It's fun. It's the kind of thing you think about as a kid -- people knowing your name like that."
Once the postseason ends, Merritt will be free to help with the wedding planning. His marriage to Brushaber, a Minnesota native, is scheduled for Jan. 27 in Rochester, Minnesot. They're fully aware that the weather conditions might not be optimal, but it was the best they could do given his schedule as a professional ballplayer.
"We figured it was the most reasonable date with what's going on in our offseason," Merritt said. "Everybody is going to have to bring their winter coats. It's a good thing it will be inside." As for gifts, Callaway has a suggestion for Merritt's friends who might be late to the party.
"Envelopes of cash," he said, laughing.
Merritt, who earned the pro-rated portion of the MLB rookie minimum $507,500 salary during his brief time in Cleveland this season, acknowledged that some wedding-goers might have to opt for money as a present.
"Or I'll just wind up with like six Keurigs or something," he said.
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