To hear Tim Berry tell it, his biggest strides this season were made in the mental part of the game. That led him to perform better physically, and that led him to a spot on the Orioles' 40-man roster.
A 22-year-old left-handed pitcher, Berry was added to the O's 40-man last night, joining right-hander Eddie Gamboa and catcher Michael Ohlman on the roster before the midnight deadline.
Berry went 11-7 with a 3.85 ERA at Single-A Frederick this season and then pitched to a 1.84 ERA in the Arizona Fall League. Berry was ranked by Baseball America as the club's 11th-best prospect after last season and figures to move into the top 10 now.
Where did he make improvements during this past season?
"There were a number of areas, but the biggest was probably the mental side of the game," Berry said last night. "I could go out there and I was just trying to play the game and not pressing to get results or not walk guys. I tried to relax and let myself do what I do. That really opened things up for me and allowed me to let my talent out instead of getting in my own way.
"As a result of that, the fastball command really took a step forward this year. They always tell you fastball command is the most important thing and once you see what you can do when you command your fastball, you are in control of the at-bat. My changeup made big strides as well."
Berry pitches at 91-92 mph with a fastball that touches 94 mph. His curve is a real solid pitch and his changeup made big strides especially late in the year.
But Berry cited the mental part of the game as the key to his 2013 success.
"The first couple years when I met some failures, I had a tough time dealing with that," he said. "That kind of put more pressure on me and that just makes you tight and focus on the wrong things. It is a lot more freeing when you say, 'Let's go help the team win today and just go play.' That is when it's fun but it's harder than it seems to do that.
"Rick Peterson (O's director of pitching development) helped me. He's got a lot of that mental side. He's a big yoga guy and he gave those things to me. I started doing some yoga and I feel that started to translate to my game. Rick deserves some credit there.
"Alan Mills (pitching coach) in the fall league was perfect for me. He knows what it takes and knows the mental things you grapple with when you want to be good. Being with him for six weeks really helped me take another step forward."
Ohlman said he knew he could get some good news yesterday and he spent the day sitting by the phone waiting for the call that eventually did come.
He had a big year at bat in 2013, hitting .313 with 29 doubles, 13 homers and 53 RBIs in 100 games for Frederick. He won the Carolina League's batting title by one point and set Frederick's single-season slugging percentage mark at .524. He was third in the league in OBP at .410 and had a .934 OPS.
What was the key to that solid season?
"I would say my physical and mental maturity and approach to the game," Ohlman said. "Getting to know the pitchers a lot better and really focusing on the defensive part of my game. I've gotten a little stronger and faster and worked on my approach at the plate.
"I was excited to do that (win a batting title), but now I have to take that into next year. It was great to have that kind of success. Was just having fun and playing like a kid."
What does Ohlman need to work on in 2014?
"First and foremost, defense," he said. "Receiving and blocking. My throwing has come a long way but I'll get with Donnie Werner (O's minor league catching instructor) in spring training and take it from there and I'll work my butt off to do that."
After playing for the Arizona Fall League champs, Ohlman is back home in Florida, but he said he'll get right back into his workouts next week, working with Ryan Driscoll, the Orioles' minor league strength and conditioning coordinator in Sarasota at Ed Smith Stadium.
Props also go out to Gamboa for making his first 40-man roster at 28 after six years in the minors - and also after converting to a knuckleball pitcher. He had a solid season at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. He is now pitching winter ball in Mexico, is 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA over six starts and has pitched 19 1/3 scoreless innings over his past three starts.
By the way, three members of the much-criticized Orioles' 2009 draft were added to 40-man rosters last night. Ohlman was drafted that year in round 11 and Berry in round 50. That draft also produced lefty pitcher Jarret Martin, who was taken by the Orioles in round 18 that year. Martin was traded along with Tyler Henson to the Dodgers in December 2011 for Dana Eveland. Last night, the Dodgers added Martin to their 40-man roster.