SARASOTA, Fla. - Here are some quotes from today’s press conference announcing reliever Darren O’Day’s two-year deal, which includes a club option for 2015.
O’Day earned $1.35 million last season, and he sought $3.2 million in arbitration. According to an industry source, he will be paid $2.2 million this season and $3.2 million in 2014. He also could earn $4.25 million in 2015 if the Orioles exercise his option, which includes a $400,000 buyout.
“Very deserving. I’m very proud of Darren. The guy’s easy to trust and that’s what it’s all about,” said manager Buck Showalter.
“He was a big part of our success last year. He’s a guy who’s very easy to trust. You put your head on the pillow regardless of what the results are. It’s not a purely statistical evaluation, though Darren wouldn’t take a back seat to many guys in the role he (was) used. And he did more than one thing for us. Multiple guys pitching well, and Darren would be the first to say, allows you to keep everybody healthy because we were able to spread the load. But he’s a guy who cares about doing it right and he’s a guy who makes his teammates better and makes the other team not as good. That’s a good combination.”
The Orioles claimed O’Day off waivers last November before they hired executive vice president Dan Duquette. Showalter was instrumental in bringing him to Baltimore.
“If they were all as easy as claiming Darren, it would be an easy job,” Showalter said. “I thought our medical team did a great job evaluating him and helping him through last year. It’s hard to do what he does for a living and be that dependable night after night. He was honest with us when it got to a point, and it wasn’t very often, that he needed some time. I think the support group of (pitching coach) Rick Adair and (bullpen coach) Billy Castro and everybody being on the same page, it played well and we wanted it to continue.
“I thought he was a big piece. We were looking for pieces that can consistently serve a role that a team will need to be competitive, and Darren was one of those guys.”
It’s understandable that O’Day was in a reflective mood today, noting how he “got picked off the scrap heap by a pretty good GM,” a playful reference to Showalter, who sat next to him at the press conference.
“I don’t know if you guys know him. He might be around here somewhere,” O’Day said, grinning. “But they gave me an opportunity and they kept running me out there last year, and I hope I did what they expected. And now maybe this is them saying they believe in me and they want to keep me around and be part of what’s going on here. It’s really a good time to be a Baltimore Oriole, to bring a winning team, some winning baseball, back to Baltimore. To be a part of that is pretty awesome, and hopefully I can be a part of that for a few more years.”
O’Day’s representatives approached the Orioles with the idea of a multi-year deal, and they were receptive.
“I think every player has thought about it and hoped for it,” O’Day said. “For a guy who’s bounced around and been on a few different teams on a somewhat short career, it’s what you hope for. But I felt like last year was a good year and that I did some things on and off the field that helped us win. Just being a part of this team and these guys means a lot to me, and we try to do little things to help each other. I think they recognize that and want me to be a part of that.”
Asked about his expectations when he first signed last year, O’Day replied, “Mine were just to prove that I was healthy. I knew that I could pitch if I was healthy and that was really the big test, and these guys took a leap of faith with me and trusted that if I was healthy, that I was going to be the guy that I had been. I knew that if I did that, I would have a good shot at making the team and that we could be a competitive team.”
Can he relax now?
“No,” he replied. “There’s always somebody coming for your job. Almost every year of my career, I’ve had to fight for a spot. It’s served me well, so I’m going to keep taking that same approach and working hard, trying to help the other guys out and do the little things to make me a better pitcher.”
Along with Showalter, O’Day also credited Adair and Castro - who sat in the back row during the press conference - for making life easier for the relievers.
“These guys know how to run a bullpen,” he said. “Three guys in this room are a big part of it. They put us in situations to succeed. The way that bullpen was run, you never knew who was going to pitch. It helps us out, it gives us a lot of confidence.
“In the beginning of the year, we didn’t have a seventh-inning guy, an eighth-inning guy. We had guys who could get outs in any situation and that gave us a lot of confidence, and I think that came to fruition with all those one-run games, extra-inning games, postseason, all that stuff, knowing that the rest of the team has confidence in anybody down there that we can do any job they need us to.”
Duquette explained why the Orioles were willing to give O’Day a two-year deal and the option.
“Obviously, the kid did a great job for us as a pitcher, but he’s the kind of pitcher who can get you out of a jam and he can also pitch responsibly and protect the lead. And he pitched when we needed him to pitch in the playoffs,” Duquette said.
“He was terrific. That kind of player, who is very dependable, has a lot of value to the Orioles. That’s why we decided to enter a multi-year agreement with him. Beyond that, if you take a look at the body of his work, he’s in the top 10 relief pitchers over the last four years in ERA and WHIP, which is another sign of his dependability. So we’re happy to enter into a long-term agreement with him. The leadership he shows with the team I think adds a lot to the bullpen and the stability of our bullpen.
“The bullpen was really the strength of the ballclub, right? The bullpen returns in tact. The challenge for these guys is to perform year over year, right? If you look at relief pitchers, there’s a volatility that occurs among relief pitchers, but the good ones perform year in and year out, and these relief pitchers showed last year that they’re highly skilled. They have good stuff and they have good control.”
Meanwhile, Adair confirmed that reliever Luis Ayala is skipping the WBC.
“It’s got to be a tough decision,” Adair said. “You won the Caribbean Series, go through all that. Obviously, he loves his country, but whatever reasons, he has decided not to and I’m sure he’s kind of gone back and forth on that.”
Asked if it’s a good decision for the Orioles, Adair replied, “It is because, obviously, he pitched winter ball, a lot of innings, and we have 40-however many days left, and through this process we can have him simulate games, pitch in minor league games and build him up without the pressure of competition this early in the year.
“It’s a catch-22 because there’s a lot of guys that, I went through it myself, you come back from winter ball, you pitched a lot of innings and it’s how much time to take off, when to get ready. Do you stop completely? Obviously, he’s not stopped completely, but we got to stretch out the recovery time, but still pitch. It’s going to take a lot of input from Luis as to how he’s feeling as to what we do.”