Tsuyoshi Wada is scheduled to make his next start for Triple-A Norfolk on Monday afternoon against Rochester. He hasn't allowed a run in his last two outings, walking two and striking out 17 in 11 2/3 innings, and the reports on him indicate that his stuff is good enough now to get out major league hitters.
Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin is in total agreement.
"I'm really happy with what he's doing right now. Oh my goodness," Griffin said yesterday. "Where he was when he first got to us and where he is now is like night and day. His fastball, especially in his last two outings, he's gotten late life to it. He's gotten better late movment to it. His comand has improved.
"What we started to work on with him since Day One when he got here was trying to use both sides of the plate with his fastball, and it's starting to play now. He's starting to pitch inside better, especially to right-handed batters. His secondary stuff has started to get crisper. His slider at the beginning didn't have consistent tilt. Now, it's got consistent tilt. He's get swings and misses with his slider and getting outs against right-handed hitters with his slider. That was a major goal with that pitch.
"His curveball is steadily improving. At first, it was just another pitch. Now, it's got better depth and he's starting to get early strikes with his curveball. His changeup has been there since Day One. That's been a mainstay. It's gotten him out of a lot of jams early and he continues to do very well with it at this date. Right now, I'm starting to see him throw all four of his pitches with better consistenty.
"The one thing I'm really happy with his he's clearing two major hurdles. He has a crisper fastball that's starting to play better, and he's starting to use both sides of the plate with his fastball with better consistency."
Wada still hasn't pitched for the Orioles since signing his two-year, $8.15 million contract in December 2011 with a club option for 2014. He underwent ligament-reconstructive surgery on his left elbow last summer and it's been a process recovering and regaining his arm strength and touch.
"He came back from major arm surgery," Griffin said. "It's just a matter of, he needed to get on a mound, needed to get out there and pitch every six days. That's what he's doing. You're starting to see his arm strength. He's back to where we thought he was going to be. He's improving right now. It just took time. "
Wada gave his consent for the Orioles to option him so he could continue pitching at Norfolk, knowing he wasn't ready to help them. He's currently 4-5 with a 4.70 ERA in 15 starts, with 84 hits, 28 walks and 68 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings. He's registered four quality starts in his last seven outings, and most recently tossed five scoreless innings against Gwinnett. He's posted a 1.77 ERA vs. left-handed hitters.
"I give Wada a lot of credit," Griffin said. "He was very, very patient. He's been absolutely fantastic here. He's fun to work with. He's been great. Seeing what he's doing, especially in his last two starts, we're on the right track here."
The Orioles could change course with Wada, putting him in the bullpen when rosters expand on Sept. 1 instead of holding firm to the idea that he's only a starter. That is, if they wait until rosters expand. There's currently no room for him in the rotation or the 'pen.
"I don't make those decisions, but it's not a bad idea. Not a bad idea at all," Griffin said.
"We're just trying to get him ready quickly so he's able to help them out up there."
Manager Buck Showalter's concern has been whether Wada can get ready quickly enough if used out of the bullpen. The early impressions were that he needed additional time, which is fine for a starter. Not so much for a reliever.
"He's in a real good place right now mentally, and as far as his routine, he doesn't get out of that routine," Griffin said. "He doesn't get distracted. He's in a starter's routine and he's ready fairly quickly now.
"I'm so happy for him. It's an old cliche, but you know what? This kid works hard. He's worked hard to get back and now we're starting to see some things that have been major improvements.
"I just know that he's on the right track now. And I know he's quite happy."