He is a submarine-style, right-handed relief pitcher and, if he reclaims the form he showed during an outstanding 2010 season with Texas, he could be a key piece to the 2012 Orioles bullpen.
The O’s claimed 29-year-old pitcher Darren O’Day off waivers from Texas in November and now he wants to put last year, when he had surgery and missed a large part of the season, behind him.
O’Day went 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in just 16 2/3 innings with the Rangers last year and also spent some time in the minors. He was out from late April until July 1 after undergoing left hip surgery to repair a torn labrum. He also went on the DL from Aug. 25-Sept. 12 with right shoulder inflammation.
“I wasn’t the same guy as I was the two years before, so, I think that’s why I’m here. I’m happy to be here. It’s a great opportunity. I’m 100 percent healthy now. So I think I will get back to where I was before,” O’Day said.
O’Day went 6-2 with an ERA of 2.03 during a superb 2010 season with Texas, when opposing batters hit just .196 off him and his WHIP was 0.88 in 72 games.
O’Day, who played college ball at the University of Florida, feels that the current Orioles remind him somewhat of his former team.
“When I came to Texas in 2009 it was kind of the same situation they had in Baltimore here last year,” he said. “A lot of young starters, guys who were very talented who were just trying to figure everything out and it takes a little while.
“So my first year in Texas, I pitched all the time. You never knew when you were going to be in. The starters started to figure it out during my time there, but as a relief pitcher, you want to be in the game. You don’t want to be in the game in the third inning, but we want Buck to have that confidence in us when the starter starts laboring. I like to pitch.”
O’Day, who has also pitched for the Angels and Mets, has a career record of 8-5 with an ERA of 2.89 and WHIP of 1.10.
He said he told Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette that he compares these Orioles to the Rangers of a few years ago.
“When I met Dan Duquette, I talked to him about that. When I got picked up by Texas, there were a lot of very talented young guys, pitchers and position players. You had to kind of fill in the gaps with veterans that know how to win and teach these young guys how to mature. In my time there, they did that. Now they are competing on a different level than they were when I got there,” O’Day said.
“When I got moved over here and I knew a few of the guys that were already here. I talked to them about what was going on and I saw what they were doing at the end of the year last year and there are a lot of similarities. If we do everything right and it goes as planned, we could move up to that next level here soon.”
O’Day can be tough on right-handed batters, who hit just .181 against him during his strong 2010 season and have hit just .214 against him during his big league career.
“That’s kind of my job. Naturally, I will face more righties then lefties, but I do pride myself on not being just a righty guy. When I was having my good years when I was healthy, I was getting lefties out, too. My splits were pretty good, so you know I’m not going in to face five lefties in a row. I know that to be on this team I need to get righties out whenever they ask,” he said.
If O’Day pitches well in Baltimore, maybe Orioles’ fans will chant his name like these Rangers’ fans did.
Hanging out with the Shorebirds: We had a great time Saturday night at the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds’ Hot Stove Banquet. Congrats to general manager Chris Bitters and his staff for putting together a fun night and I hope MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, Pete Kerzel and I added to it. There are some great fans on the Eastern Shore, I’m glad we met so many Saturday and it was a lot of fun to hang out with the Shorebirds staff.
Here are some pictures from the event.