Asher trying to regain club’s confidence as camp continues

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles will conduct their first full-squad workout this afternoon after the remaining players in camp have passed their physicals and are cleared for baseball activities.

Utility infielder √Čngelb Vielma isn’t expected to arrive until perhaps later in the week due to a visa issue in Venezuela. Everyone else should be in camp.

How could practically every team in baseball claim Vielma over the last few months and no one applied for a visa?

Chris Davis and Craig Gentry tossed a football yesterday next to one of the practice fields. Davis threw a perfect spiral to Gentry, who hauled it in for the first score of the spring.

Davis raised his arms. Gentry didn’t break a finger.

Alec Asher is working as a reliever after making six starts last season. Manager Buck Showalter listed nine starters in camp and Asher failed to make the cut.

The roll call expanded with Andrew Cashner’s arrival. He joins Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Gabriel Ynoa, Miguel Castro, Hunter Harvey and Rule 5 picks Nestor Cortes Jr. and Jos√© Mesa.

“I think just coming into camp and to be on the team is probably the first order, but I like being a starter and I feel like that’s where my niche is, so obviously I’m going to try to go for that,” Asher said. “Going to the bullpen is just as good. As long as you’re on the team is the main thing. So I’m just going to compete, pitch and do what I can control and hopefully good things happen.”

Asher-Throws-Black-Sidebar.jpgA relief role is an adjustment for Asher, 26, who made 12 starts over two seasons with the Phillies before joining the Orioles toward the end of 2017 spring training. He came out of the bullpen in 18 games last year, twice after holding the Blue Jays to one run over 6 1/3 innings in his debut at Rogers Centre and seven times after a quality outing against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

“It was a learning curve,” he said. “I had never really pitched out of the bullpen, so it was learning how to do that. I thought there were my ups and down there. And then starting there were ups and downs there. It’s just, still you learn from your experience. It’s kind of a (lesson) and you go from there.”

Some of them can be harsh.

Asher didn’t pitch for the Orioles after Sept. 2, when he worked two relief innings and surrendered a home run to the Blue Jays’ Darwin Barney. He went 2-5 with a 5.25 ERA and 1.400 WHIP in 60 innings.

The Orioles optioned Asher to Double-A Bowie on Sept. 3 and he allowed two inherited runners to score and three of his own over 1 2/3 innings against Altoona after relieving Tanner Scott in Game 2 of the Eastern League playoffs. The outing upset some members of the organization and he never made it back to Baltimore.

Asked about the failure to return to an expanded roster, Asher said, “I can only control what I can control.”

It had to be a disappointment.

“I can only control what I can control,” he repeated.

Asher would prefer that the Orioles remember his three quality starts, including a June 2 game against the Red Sox at Camden Yards when he allowed two runs and walked none over 6 2/3 innings. Not the debacle in Bowie or the three starts in Houston, D.C. and Chicago when he surrendered a combined 17 runs in 11 innings.

The process begins with bullpen sessions on the back mounds and a chance to pitch in the early exhibition games.

“I feel really good, really good,” he said. “You’re just trying to get the feel for your pitches and stuff. You can do all the preparing you want in the offseason, but coming into camp and throwing your bullpens in front of everyone and stuff, you get that extra little adrenaline going for the first time, so you just want to get the feel for your stuff, work on your command. I feel good.”

The rotation still has two openings and Chris Tillman could fill one of them as he nears a decision. The Orioles remain in play to re-sign him. Asher seems to be shut out of the in-house competition for the fifth spot, but Showalter noted how the bullpen has three vacancies.

Asher isn’t hanging on social media updates of the Orioles search for more pitching and how it could impact him.

“You know, but no, I don’t follow Twitter every day and keep up with it,” he said. “I know for the most part what’s going on, but again, you can only control what you can control, so I try not to get wrapped up in it too much.”

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