For the Orioles, the Rule 5 draft is serious business. In each of Dan Duquette’s five years as head of baseball operations for the Orioles, they’ve taken a player in the Rule 5 draft, and they have the longest active streak in major league baseball.
Most times Rule 5 picks don’t make major league teams.
Three times in Duquette’s first four years the pick has made the roster: Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland in 2012 and 2013, and last year, Jason Garcia. Only Michael Almanzar, who went to camp in 2014, didn’t make the team.
This year it’s outfielder Joey Rickard’s turn.
If Rickard is like the others, the Orioles will allow him every chance to make it. While he’s never played in the majors, he has two qualities that he’s shown in the minor leagues that could be helpful: speed and an ability to draw walks.
In three levels of the minors a year ago, Rickard had a .427 on-base percentage and stole 23 of 29 bases.
The Orioles don’t have an obvious player on their bench who can pinch run or fill in for Adam Jones in center, so it looks as if Rickard will get that long look.
Last March, the Orioles had two Rule 5 selections in camp, Garcia and Logan Verrett. Verrett was lost on waivers to Texas late in camp, and he ended up back with the New York Mets.
Garcia, who’s now 23, spent about half the season on the disabled list, but appeared in 21 games with a 1-0 record and 4.25 ERA.
Before he was injured in early May, Garcia pitched to a 5.93 ERA. When he returned in August, he had a 2.81 ERA in 13 games.
It was a lot different. I think my mindset and just my confidence was different. Working with [pitching coach Alan Mills] in Bowie I think was pretty crucial for me, and just getting everything right. I felt a lot more confident coming back from that rehab stint this past year,” Garcia said at last month’s minicamp in Sarasota, Fla.
A year ago, Garcia had never pitched above Low-A. When he was drafted from the Boston Red Sox, he pitched in the same league that Delmarva is in, and he hadn’t even gone as far as Frederick’s level.
“Yeah, it feels a lot different. Just the experience and everything from (last year) that I learned and went through, this offseason I got to sit down and think about and take it in. It was awesome and I’m pumped, excited,” Garcia said.
He had quite an education.
“There’s a ton. It’s hard to choose from. That’s a hard question. I probably can’t choose one thing. On the field, probably just how different the game is, the pace of the game. Just realizing it’s the same game, but trusting in myself,” Garcia said.
Garcia has three options, and needs to pitch regularly. The guess is that he could start in Bowie.
“We’ve talked here and there, but nothing definite yet. Kind of see how this spring goes and see whatever works best for the team,” Garcia said.
Pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti recommended that Garcia, who pitched in the Arizona Fall League, not throw during the three-day mini-camp.
“That was our suggestion, not his, just because he learned so much and has come such a long way. He’s another one of those guys who, we all think in our end of the business that we have a grasp on things, no one expected that guy to be what he turned out to be. We’re all pleasantly surprised,” Wallace said.
“He made a lot of progress, and he went to Fall league, so we’re backing off of him right now until spring training starts just because he’s been through a lot, No.1 and he’s thrown a lot. When you think about it, he had thrown several bullpens before this time last year when we had the minicamp. He essentially hasn’t stopped until the Fall league was over. He doesn’t need to get on the mound down here. That was our suggestion. He wanted to and we kind of talked him out of it.”
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