BALTIMORE—Darren O’Day says that it wasn’t a hard decision to return to the Orioles. On Monday, O’Day’s, four-year, $31 million contract became official.
He thought about signing with the Nationals, and with some other teams, but once the Orioles guaranteed the fourth year, that helped him make the decision.
“It was an easy choice to come back with how this team presented itself,” O’Day said on Tuesday at a news conference to discuss his return.
“I think in my heart of hearts I hoped it would come true. I had such a wonderful four years here, the work we’ve done over the past four years, bringing this proud franchise back to where it should be with a lot of wins, really means a lot to me. To be able to continue that for four more years means a lot to me. I always hoped it would be a possibility. There was a time there we talked right at the beginning of the offseason, didn’t talk much for a while, and then at the end, they made it obvious they wanted me back, and I wanted to come back.”
O’Day has gone 23-8 with a 1.92 ERA in his four seasons with the Orioles. When the season ended on Oct. 4, he wasn’t sure he’d be back.
“There’s always a chance of that,” O’Day said.
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O’Day remembered that during the time just before Dan Duquette took over as executive vice president of baseball operations in Nov. 2011, Buck Showalter saw his name on the waiver wire.
“Four years ago, in Buck’s only move as a GM, he claimed me for free. That price escalated pretty quickly in four years,” O’Day said.
“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to be back and happy to be back, especially to rejoin my teammates. That would probably be one thing I would miss the most, is playing with those guys every day. I enjoy coming to work. Living on top of each other for six months, eight months a year with these guys. That would be hard to leave.”
O’Day has been a setup man during his time with the Orioles. Other teams wanted him as a closer. At 33, he doesn’t have the ego to demand the closing role, and he pointed at Showalter as a main reason for returning.
“This guy [Showalter] knows a little something about baseball, especially managing a bullpen, managing everybody on the team really. If you’re referring to the opportunity to close games, I don’t need that to feel validated. I think sometimes the situations I get put into, the eighth inning, the seventh inning, can determine a game more so than the ninth inning with empty bases,” O’Day said.
“I take a lot of pride in doing what I do, and pitching in those big situations, and I know Buck is going to take care of me physically, and I know our medical staff here is top-notch. I hope that I can continue to keep playing after this contract, and that certainly was a big factor.”
In March 2012, O’Day was not guaranteed to make the team. It came down to him and a young pitcher, Zach Phillips. Now, it’s hard to imagine O’Day elsewhere.
“It’s been an interesting path from a guy that was lightly recruited out of high school, tried to walk on to a college team, throwing overhand and got cut. Walked on as an extra, throwing sidearm, and I made it. Didn’t think I would get a chance to play professionally. Been designated, changed teams four times without being traded. It’s been an interesting ride, it really has,” O’Day said.
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