On a list of 27 Orioles organization players who could soon be minor league free agents, you will find Zach Clark's name. He has pitched in the O's organization since 2006.
After a wild 2013 season that saw him pitch at five levels of the organization, make the majors, get designated for assignment days later and then convert to a knuckleball pitcher, Clark is certainly hopeful of a return to the O's next year. But the former UMBC pitcher hasn't yet been offered a contract for next season.
"When we talked about becoming a knuckleballer, my understanding is it wasn't a three-month experiment," Clark said yesterday. "I would like to be back with the Orioles, but I know I am not the main priority.
"I couldn't picture myself playing for another team. Not to say that it couldn't happen, but I kind of feel like I'm invested in the Orioles."
Clark also remains committed to throwing the knuckleball in 2014. He went 3-15 with a 7.84 ERA last season during a year that saw him start with Triple-A Norfolk, get called up by the Orioles and later pitch at Double-A Bowie, the Gulf Coast League Orioles and Single-A Frederick.
He makes his winter home in Princeton, N.J. He trains at Princeton University and it just so happens that the Tigers' baseball coach is former big league catcher Scott Bradley, who caught in the majors and caught both Joe and Phil Niekro and their knuckleballs. Bradley should be able to help Clark as he continues to work on the pitch this offseason.
The Orioles' list of pending minor league free agents recently was reduced from 29 to 27 when the club signed right-handed pitcher Marcel Prado and infielder-outfielder Garabez Rosa for 2014.
The 25-year-old Prado was signed as a minor league free agent last November and went 3-4 with a 2.38 ERA between Frederick and Bowie. Over 56 2/3 innings, Prado walked 17, fanned 60 and gave up a .238 average against. A native of Venezuela, Prado is expected to pitch winter ball in his home country.
A native of the Dominican Republic who was signed by the Orioles in November 2006, Rosa played at Bowie in 2013. He batted .276 with six homers, 49 RBIs and a .665 OPS in 125 Baysox games. Rosa, who turns 24 on Saturday, played infield and outfield for Bowie.
Here is the list of pending O's minor league free agents:
* IF Travis Adair
* RHP Tim Alderson
* OF George Barber
* RHP Tim Bascom
* RHP Matt Bischoff
* RHP Zach Clark
* RHP Manny Delcarmen
* C Luis Exposito
* LHP Mark Hendrickson
* IF Josh Horton
* OF Kyle Hudson
* LHP Chris Jones
* IF Alex Liddi
* IF Seth Loman
* C Luis Martinez
* RHP Daniel McCutchen
* IF Yamaico Navarro
* RHP Jose Nivar
* OF Trayvon Robinson
* IF Niuman Romero
* RHP Adam Russell
* LHP Dan Schlereth
* IF Brandon Waring
* C Chase Weems
* IF Zelous Wheeler
* RHP Zech Zinicola
* C Allan de San Miguel
Players on this list can be minor league free agents five days after the end of the World Series. The Orioles are the only team that can negotiate with this group right now to try and sign them to 2014 contracts.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Fall League begins today. The Orioles have eight players on the roster of the Surprise Saguaros, who play Peoria today at 2:35 p.m. ET.
They are pitchers Tim Berry, Jason Gurka, Branden Kline and Eduardo Rodriguez, infielder Jonathan Schoop, outfielders Dariel Alvarez and Henry Urrutia, and catcher Michael Ohlman.
Schoop played in the AFL last year, batting .270 with two homers and 10 RBIs over 21 games.
Bowie manager Gary Kendall is the manager for Surprise and short-season Single-A Aberdeen pitching coach Alan Mills is one of two pitching coaches for the club.
When Pittsburgh right-hander Gerrit Cole pitched the Pirates to a win over St. Louis in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, giving up just two hits and one run over six innings, I thought of the Baseball America 2009 scouting report on Matt Hobgood.
It read in part:
"Hobgood first gained attention in Southern California when he outdueled Gerrit Cole (who went on to be a first-round pick) in a high school playoff game in 2008. That made him the local player of the year as a junior, beating out first-round picks such as Cole, Kyle Skipworth and Aaron Hicks."
Yep, Hobgood outpitched Cole in the 2008 California high school playoffs. Cole has gone on to the majors after he was the overall No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft out of UCLA, while Hobgood has battled injuries and came back this year after shoulder surgery. But what he did that day in 2008 was among the reasons the O's made him the fifth pick in the draft a year later.