In its five years of existence, minicamp has become an absolute necessity for the Orioles. For the last three years, it’s been held at the team’s spring training complex in Sarasota, and about 20 pitchers, catchers and coaches huddle for three days.
Most of the pitchers throw one or two bullpen sessions, some don’t.
It’s a great place for the team to officially check on pitchers who’ve had injuries and make sure they’re doing well.
That was the case with Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey, who for a few minutes on Wednesday, threw side-by-side in a bullpen on one of the back fields.
It’s also a good place for pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti to become familiar with some of the young pitchers in the organization.
A year ago, they saw Mychal Givens throw. At that time, Givens was still a longshot, a former high draft choice as an infielder who didn’t hit very well, but had been converted to pitching.
They liked what they saw, and Givens became an important part of the bullpen in the final part of last season.
Obviously, they’re looking for more like Givens.
For manager Buck Showalter who could only attend the first two days of minicamp and missed Bundy and Harvey working on Wednesday, he gets to see some of the prospects for the first time in person.
He’s often watched tape of them. When he arrives at the ballpark hours before a night game, he’ll often watch two or three innings of a pitcher from Bowie, Frederick or Delmarva.
A few times during the season, he’ll sneak off to the affiliates, maybe even Aberdeen, to watch a pitcher throw. He’ll not sit in the dugout, and the young pitchers won’t know he’s there.
For a team like the Orioles, they have to find unique ways to compete, and a few days of hands on interaction with the major league staff can help the young pitchers.
Last year, Givens learned about major league relief pitching from Tommy Hunter at minicamp. This year, Donnie Hart, David Hess, Tanner Scott and Andrew Triggs gathered around him to hear him give advice.
Several Orioles pitchers live in the area: Zach Britton, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman. Givens, last year’s Rule 5 pick Jason Garica, and another young pitcher, Chris Lee are from Tampa, about an hour away.
The veterans didn’t throw in camp, but they watch. When the young pitchers do their work, the veterans observe. That’s an advantage, Wallace says.
“We think it is because what we’ve tried to do over the last few years is build an open communication forum where I think Zach and Tilly, Gonzo, all the guys, even during the season when our starters throw, they all come out, all the starters come out. When we have side sessions during the season with some of the bullpen guys, all the other guys are there. You never know where you’re going to get some information from somebody who may say the same thing in a different way. I think all of our pitchers understand,” Wallace said.
“They’re comfortable opening up and speaking with other pitchers in front of us. It’s not ‘hey you can’t talk to him because we’re the coaches.’ It doesn’t work that way here. They know what we believe, they’ve bought into a lot of it, and a lot of times when they speak to the younger guys, you put yourself in their position, if you’re a younger pitcher, are you going to listen to some pitching coach you just met or Zach Britton or Chris Tillman? I’m listening to the player, one of my own peers. What’s nice is, those guys, they’ll tell us what they talked to the guys about. It’s a nice open communication. It’s a long way of answering your question. I wouldn’t say it’s critical, but it certainly is real important for these guys to have a relationship.”
This year, there weren’t any unexpected tryouts, just three days the Orioles hope will pay off later on this season, and years to come.
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