Two days after he was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Orioles in the Manny Machado trade, right-hander Zach Pop was pitching at Prince George’s Stadium for his new organization and his new team, the Double-A Bowie Baysox.
It didn’t go well. Not the first impression he wanted. But it has gone a lot better for the 21-year-old Canadian native since he gave up three runs without recording an out that first game. Over his past four games for Bowie, Pop has thrown seven innings, allowing two hits and one unearned run. He is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in five outings.
From Brampton, Ontario, Pop was promoted from Single-A to Double-A when the Orioles acquired him. For the Dodgers, at two A-ball levels in 2018, he went 1-2 with a 1.04 ERA. Over 43 1/3 he allowed 25 hits with 13 walks, 47 strikeouts and a .168 average against. At High-A Rancho Cucamonga he gave up one run over 27 innings.
So at three levels this year, Pop has a 1.30 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 60 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings. He’s a big guy (6-foot-4, 220 lbs.) that can throw hard, with a mid 90s fastball that can touch more. His groundball rates have been solid and his slider can be a plus pitch.
“I’m a sinker/slider guy with a four-seamer mixed in there too,” said Pop. “Like to go after hitters for the most part and make them swing at my stuff. If they hit it, they do. Sometimes I struggle with the movement of my sinker. It can move a little too much and you have to find a new point of aim. Definitely look to get some ground balls.
“I think velocity helps. You try to get some first-pitch swings and if guys are late, you can get a groundball and have them keep the ball on the ground. Let the defense work. Velocity helps. Speed them up and then slow them down with a slider.”
This native of Canada had a chance to join the Toronto Blue Jays when they drafted him in the 23rd round in 2014 out of high school.
“I mean for me I had my mind pretty much made up to go college and get an education. I wanted the whole college experience. I don’t think I was ready at the time, I was only 17. The maturity level, not me as a player but as a person, was a big thing to gain in college.”
So he went off to the University of Kentucky and had a career solid enough to lead the Dodgers to draft him in round seven of 2017. He was ranked as the No. 95 player for that draft by MLBPipeline.com, No. 178 by Baseball America, and was selected with pick No. 220.
Pop told me before he was one of the five players traded for Machado he had a sense that something was in the works.
“Towards the end I started to wonder what was going on and if I was in trade talks. Prior to my first outing here I hadn’t pitched in nine days off a mound. It was a little strange. Dean (Kremer) hadn’t pitched in over two weeks. But it really sunk in when they called me into the office and said, ‘You’re traded.’”
Pop might have a fresh arm. He didn’t start pitching until after he entered high school.
“I started pitching my junior year in high school,” he said. “I started to throw pretty hard and thought I might have a shot at being a pitcher. As my pitches started to develop, I made Team Canada and got to go to an SEC school and play in front of a lot of fans. It kept building for me after that and I thought I would have a shot at playing pro ball. I was previously a first baseman, but that’s long behind me now. Especially with guys throwing 95 plus.”
So yeah, the pitching-thing is working out for him and he made a wise decision to go to college at Kentucky and mature as a player and person. He certainly must have noticed that the Orioles traded three bullpen veterans and spots in the 2019 O’s ‘pen and beyond may be pretty open at this point.
“I think this trade will be a great move for my career. Really happy that the Orioles put me in the Machado trade and excited to see what the future will bring,” Pop said.
Ripken in Frederick: Roy Rogers on Riverside Way in Frederick, will celebrate the restaurant chain’s 50th anniversary and its partnership with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation by receiving a special visit from Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. on Aug. 14, between 5 and 6:30 p.m.
Baseball’s “Iron Man” will first head into the restaurant and join the team behind the counter and then participate in a few baseball activities outside with local area kids.
Ripken was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. Since his retirement, Ripken uses the platform that baseball has provided him to help grow the game through Ripken Baseball and its youth complexes located in Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee, while placing a strong focus on giving back to underserved communities through the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.
Five errors, five runs, one win: The Orioles somehow overcame a five-error game to win last night 5-4 at Tampa Bay. Trey Mancini’s two-run double in the ninth turned a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead. The Orioles (35-79) won for just the third time in 18 road games. They got solo homers from Tim Beckham, Adam Jones and Mark Trumbo and have hit nine homers the last three games. Andrew Cashner got a no-decision but gave up just one earned run over seven innings. The O’s road trip ends tonight with David Hess (2-6, 6.41 ERA) getting the start at the Trop.