BOWIE, Md. - If you want to talk about a player with perseverance, you could start with pitcher Zach Clark. In his eighth season in the Orioles’ organization, he finally made the big leagues recently. But just a few days later, he was designated for assignment and now he is back here with Double-A Bowie, learning to throw a knuckleball.
It’s been a wild few days for the 29-year-old Clark, but the player I spoke to this afternoon is embracing this chance to show the Orioles what he can do throwing a knuckler. That adventure starts for him tomorrow afternoon when he will start against the Erie Sea Wolves.
Clark has tinkered with a knuckleball before, just not in games. The UMBC product said he is excited about this next chapter in his career.
“To everybody on the outside looking in, it looks like this sudden change. But in my mind, I always knew I would try it at some point, just didn’t know when. This seems to be the right opportunity,” Clark said.
So when he pitches tomorrow, just what percentage of his pitches will be knucklers?
“I don’t know exactly, but at least 50 percent I think,” he said. “When I spoke with Dan (Duquette) about it, I asked about that. He said if you throw 80 pitches, 40 of them would be knuckleballs. If I am going to throw it, I want to commit to it.”
Clark has spent the last two days here at Prince George’s Stadium working some with Phil Niekro, a Hall of Fame knuckleball pitcher and winner of 318 major league games.
“I can probably tell you more after I get in the game and throw it. I don’t really have a sense of who I am with it yet,” Clark said. “He’s (Niekro) given me pointers, just some little stuff, becoming a fielder after you throw it. Mindset, like you can’t worry about the last pitch or walking a guy because you can strike the next guy out. I am trying to process it all and take it all in.”
While Clark is excited to see what this all holds for him, he also knows the organization wanted him to do it and that the top O’s brass is behind him.
“I’m in to doing it, but they picked me to do this,” Clark said. “They were like, ‘Hey, let’s see it.’ I don’t care if I throw a knuckleball or a curveball or what, if I can get to the big leagues and stay there, that is what I want to do. If this allows me to do that, awesome.”
The Baysox today added infielder Niuman Romero from Triple-A Norfolk and sent catcher Jose Gil to the Tides in a one-for-one roster swap. Romero was batting .167 in 15 games with Norfolk and will start at shortstop for the Baysox tonight.
Earlier here, pitcher Julio Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list since April 10, pitched in a simulated game. The Orioles acquired Rodriguez in a March 24 minor league trade with Philadelphia for outfielder Ronnie Welty.
Tonight Kevin Gausman will make his seventh start of the year. He is 1-4 with a 3.53 ERA for the Baysox, but has pitched to an ERA of just 1.83 over his last three starts. He lost all three as Bowie scored a total of just three runs in those games.
Gausman has a 32-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 35 2/3 innings this year. In his O’s career, counting a Bowie playoff game last September, he has now worked 53 2/3 innings with a 50-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Check back here on this blog for updates from Bowie tonight and also follow via Twitter @masnsteve.