SARASOTA, Fla. - If you are a young lefty reliever with the Orioles at spring training, one hoping to have a nice big league career, you can do worse when looking for a mentor then closer Zach Britton.
Britton might be one of the best relievers in the sport. But right now, he’s out injured, giving him more time to pass on some pointers and provide some guidance to hard-throwing left-hander Tanner Scott. They are both southpaws with big fastballs and Britton resides where Scott looks to go - as a top reliever in the majors.
“It’s been great,” Scott said of his time in camp in Sarasota and working with Britton. “Picking Zach’s brain every day and having him help me out has been awesome. Anytime I throw a bullpen, he’s been over there watching. If I pitched on the road and he was not there, he checks out the video the next day and asks how I felt. We talk about it. It’s another person I can learn from.
“I’ve been like his little brother, I guess you could say. He’s been great helping me this whole spring. It’s been awesome.”
The 23-year-old Scott got his first call to the majors last Sept. 17 and then he pitched in two games. On Sept. 20, Scott made his major league debut versus Boston. He began his career throwing two 99 mph fastballs.
Scott allowed two runs in one inning in his debut, but his fastball, as advertised, touched 100 mph. He averaged 98 mph on his fastball and 88.7 mph on his slider, which got swings and misses on four of 11 pitches that night. Three days later, Scott made his second major league appearance, throwing a scoreless two-thirds of an inning against Tampa Bay. He threw nine pitches, all fastballs and averaged 97.7 mph, topping at 99 mph.
When he comes into the game, observers make sure they know where to find the radar gun readings. The one guy not looking for them is Scott himself.
“I try not to even think about it. I just need to stay within myself and make a pitch,” he said.
For Double-A Bowie last year, Scott was 0-2 with a 2.22 ERA. Over 69 innings, he allowed 45 hits with 46 walks and 87 strikeouts. He had ended 2015 at Bowie and his walks per nine innings with the Baysox dropped from 8.44 that season to 6.00 this past year, while his strikeout rate increased from 10.13 to 11.35. Lefty batters hit .171 against him and right-handers batted .195.
His slider showed big improvement last season. That was the best development for Scott in his 2017 season.
“It was massive (gains with that pitch). It helped me get a lot more outs. It definitely was a big help. I feel very confident throwing it at anytime,” he said.
One pitch he rarely throws but he worked on some over the winter was his changeup. For now though, it remains a work in progress and not yet a dependable pitch for him.
“It depends on the situation. It is just an extra pitch that I have. But you have to use what you feel the most comfortable with,” Scott said.
In Florida this spring, Scott has thrown five innings for the Orioles, allowing five hits and two runs with one walk and six strikeouts.
He’d love to be in the O’s bullpen when the season starts March 29. That’s a longshot right now, but he very well could find his way to Baltimore one or more times during the 2018 season.
“It would be nice to break north with the team. That is a goal. But I also need to just keep working to get better every day so they can use me this year,” he said.
Scott in the O’s prospect rankings:
* No. 6 by Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com
* No. 10 by ESPN and Baseball Prospectus