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Zach Clark: From undrafted to the 40-man in six years


Zach Clark: From undrafted to the 40-man in six years

It’s not often that a 29-year-old, undrafted free agent is added to the 40-man roster for the first time. The Orioles did it last week with Zach Clark.

Clark, who’s been with the organization since Dean Albany signed him as a free agent after his graduation from University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

UMBC isn’t a big baseball school. Two right-handed pitchers, Rick Steirer and Jay Witasick, were drafted in 1977 and 1993 and made it to the majors. Clark is trying to be the third Retriever, but the first undrafted one.

“I didn’t expect to be added. I know they were considering it,” Clark said.

“It’s a step closer to where I want to be. To be in the big leagues, you have to be on the 40-man roster. By putting me on the 40-man roster, they’re showing some confidence in me. It’s reassuring.”

Clark will be 30 next July, and he’s methodically worked his way up the Orioles minor league food chain, spending lots of time in Aberdeen, Delmarva, Frederick and Bowie.

He made it as far as Norfolk in 2008 and made it back in 2010. The last assignment didn’t go well. He was 0-5 in six games, but Clark wasn’t discouraged.

I knew I was getting up in age, but I didn’t think about it. I thought if I pitched well, good things would happen,” Clark said.

Clark is a player who’s caught the eye of executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who says he’s “a great human interest story.”

The Delaware native credits Orioles minor league pitching guru Rick Peterson, whose throwing program helped Clark.
“I like routine. It gave me a chance to get into a rhythm,” Clark said.

All the other years, I’d have a good piece of the season, I tried
to do too much and I’d have mixed results.”

Clark spent 2011 at Bowie, where he was 10-9 with a 5.00 ERA. He wasn’t one of those who came to spring training in 2012 on an ad hoc basis when the Orioles were afraid they’d run out of players.

But, he was chosen to pitch for the Orioles in their exhibition game in Norfolk two days before the season opened.

He began 2012 at Bowie with a 10-5 record and a 3.19 ERA. Clark was promoted to Norfolk, where he was 5-2 with a 1.75 ERA. Now, he’ll get his first invitation to spring training.

In Triple-A, Clark faced lots of batters with big league experience.

Even if I failed against the best hitters, I’d think I could do it. It builds confidence if you do it against guys who’ve done it before,” Clark said.

Growing up in Newark, Del., Clark was a Phillies and Braves fan, but as a teenager began to gravitate to the Orioles.

There are lots of young fans who liked the Orioles because of Cal Ripken like Clark did, but he also rooted for Delino DeShields because he was from Delaware, too.

Clark’s mother worked at the University of Delaware, but when he  underwent arm surgery after his junior year in high school, the Blue Hens passed on him. He could have walked on, but went to UMBC instead.

He’s enjoyed watching guys he’s played with in the minors have success in the majors, and he enjoyed watching the Orioles do so well.

“It definitely made it a lot more fun. Throughout the organization, it felt different,” Clark said.

He throws a sinker, a two-seam and four-seam fastballs, a change-up and slider. “Your basic ground ball pitcher,” Clark said.

Now, he’s ready for his biggest challenge.

“They say that getting on to the 40-man roster is easy and getting to the big leagues is easy;, staying there is hard. I haven’t experienced that,” Clark said.

“I’ve played six years. My path has been one that’s been a little longer. I feel that I’ve earned that.”


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Orioles bats stay silent against Cleveland

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Orioles bats stay silent against Cleveland

BALTIMORE -- Mike Clevenger pitched a two-hitter in his first career complete game, and the Cleveland Indians hit three solo homers off Chris Tillman in a 4-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

Jose Ramirez went 3 for 4 with his team-leading fifth home run. Yan Gomes and Yonder Alonso also went deep for Cleveland, which came into the game ranked second-to-last in the AL in runs and last in batting average.

Clevenger (2-0) hardly needed the offensive support. Pitching on seven days' rest, the right-hander struck out three, walked two and allowed only one runner past first base.

The only two hits he allowed were singles by Manny Machado in the fourth inning and Chance Sisco in the fifth.

It was Clevenger's 35th career start. His previous longest outing was 7 1/3 innings, earlier this month against Kansas City.

While Clevenger is unbeaten in 11 starts since July 31, Tillman has experienced an opposite fate. This was his 22nd straight start without a victory, dating back to his first outing last season.

Tillman (0-4) gave up four runs, eight hits and a walk in six innings. The three home runs were one more than he yielded in his first three starts this season.

Michael Brantley hit a run-scoring groundout in the first inning and Gomes connected in the fourth for a 2-0 lead.

The Orioles put runners on the corners with one out in the fourth, their lone threat against Clevenger, who responded by retiring Tim Beckham on a short fly to left and getting Anthony Santander to ground out.

Ramirez led off the sixth with a drive to left, and Alonso hit a two-out shot that landed on Eutaw Street beyond the right-field scoreboard.

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Orioles pitching falls apart as Tigers complete sweep in Detroit

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Orioles pitching falls apart as Tigers complete sweep in Detroit

DETROIT - Leonys Martin hit his first big league grand slam, Jeimer Candelario had four hits and three RBIs, and the Detroit Tigers beat Baltimore 13-8 Thursday to extend the Orioles' losing streak to six.

Jordan Zimmermann (1-0) gave up four runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, allowing two home runs to Manny Machado and one to Chris Davis. Zimmermann was pitching for the first time since being hit in the jaw by a line drove off the bat of Cleveland's Jason Kipnis on April 11.

Alex Cobb (0-2) made his second start after signing a $57 million, four-year contract in spring training and his ERA rose to 15.43. He allowed seven runs - five earned - and 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Machado had four RBIs for the Orioles, who were outhit 18-14 in the game and outscored 23-15 in the three-game sweep.

Victor Martinez hit an RBI single in the first, but Davis put Baltimore ahead with a two-run homer in the second, his sixth hit and fourth homer in 10 career at-bats against Zimmermann.

Detroit went ahead for good with four runs in the bottom half after third baseman Tim Beckham's throwing error allowed James McCann to reach base leading off. Jose Iglesias hit a two-run triple, Miguel Cabrera had an RBI single and Nick Castellanos a run-scoring groundout.

Machado's homer in the third cut Baltimore's deficit to 5-2, but Candelario's two-run homer extended the lead to 7-2 in the bottom half. Martin homered off Mike Wright Jr. in a five-run fifth.