It was late this afternoon when Oliver Drake got an important phone call. Tripp Norton, the Orioles’ assistant director of player development, informed Drake that he was being added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster.
The 43rd-round draft pick from 2008 out of Navy went 11-8 with an ERA of 3.32, making 13 starts for Single-A Frederick, 12 at Double-A Bowie and one for Triple-A Norfolk in 2011.
“I’m just really excited,” Drake said by phone from his offseason home in Gardner, Mass. “It’s a big honor and I’m looking forward to spring training. I was pretty excited when I heard this afternoon and it’s been kind of a blur from there talking to a lot of people on the phone.”
Drake went 8-3 with a 2.14 ERA at Frederick and 3-5 with an ERA of 5.20 at Bowie, but pitched to an ERA of 2.78 over his last six Baysox starts.
Drake said a mechanical adjustment he made after two very poor starts in late April with Bowie, when he gave up 11 runs over four innings, turned out to be big for him this year.
“When I struggled at Bowie, I went back to Frederick and made some adjustments and I really found out what I need to do to have success,” he said.
“I found a way to get some more movement on my fastball, kind of lowered my arm slot and fiddled with some grips to get more run on the ball. I got comfortable with throwing a sinker. You get more ground balls and that helps your pitch count and you can get deeper in the game.”
Drake also became more comfortable this year throwing a split-finger fastball after beginning to use the pitch last season. The adjustment led to him having a 2.18 ground-to-air out ratio with Frederick and a 1.66 ratio at Bowie.
It also led to his first appearance on the Orioles’ 40-man roster. I’ll have more with Drake next week in this space.