If it feels like he’s been in the Orioles organization for a while, he has. But lefty Drew Rom, added to the 40-man roster this week, for now is still just 22. He turns 23 Dec. 15 and will head to spring training next February in Sarasota, knowing it’s the season when he might make his major league debut.
During a Zoom call this week he told reporters he has a few specific goals this winter, to include trying to add velocity while honing his changeup.
"Maybe searching for some velo, but also fine tuning what I am already excelling with," he said of his winter workout plans.
The Orioles' previous front office selected Rom in the fourth round of the 2018 draft (No. 115 overall) from a high school in Fort Thomas, Ky., just south of Cincinnati. He ranks at No. 18 on the club’s top 30 list according to Baseball America and No. 19 via MLBPipeline.com.
In 2022 he pitched in 19 games with Double-A Bowie and made seven starts late in the year for Triple-A Norfolk, and he seems likely to begin the 2023 season in the Tides rotation.
Rom went 8-3 with a 4.43 ERA between the Baysox and Tides. In 120 innings he allowed 130 hits and 1.48 WHIP, recording a .276 batting average against and .748 OPS. He allowed just 0.75 homers per nine innings and posted a 3.53 walk rate and 10.80 strikeout rate.
For his career, he is 25-9 with a 3.41 ERA, 2.85 walk rate and 10.54 strikeout rate.
With a big sweeping slider and solid splitter that produce decent chase rates, his fastball, which averaged 91-92 mph, plays fine most nights. He also throws a curve and change but is still looking for a few more ticks on the radar gun.
“Of course, everyone wants to hit 100, but for me, I’m going to be realistic. I want to sit mid-90s,” said Rom. “For me, that would be a prime and optimum velo and would take a step forward with all my stuff. And it would, hopefully, catapult me into that next category."
The phone call Rom got early this week produced a nice career milestone and got him a step closer to pitching in Baltimore.
“It was a big relief for me," he said. "I didn’t really know where I stood, but thought I was in good enough standing to have a shot. And for me, just hearing the phone call was a lot of weight off my shoulders. Now I can focus on this offseason and getting ready for spring training.”
Now that offseason work really kicks in and will include, he said, some mechanics tweaks to produce more power from his lower half. And fine tuning the changeup.
“Toward the end of the season this year at Norfolk I felt a (changeup) grip that I liked and used it more and more down the stretch," Rom said. "I think I’ve found it can be a weapon and something to hammer home this offseason.”
Rom is uniquely qualified to compare the last two O’s front offices and player development plans and labeled the Dan Duquette regime as more old school with pitchers before the new group took over under Mike Elias.
“Now it has transformed to being data-driven," Rom said. "And everything we do has a purpose backed by analytics for us. So we always have a reasoning and rhyme for everything that we do. I think for us that was the biggest thing we saw when they came in, kind of the complete restructuring of development of our young guys. Kind of going from the ground up."
During the 2023 season he knows the O's depth chart will not be overflowing with left-handed rotation candidates. If he pitches well early on in the minors, he believes it will force some tough choices onto the front office.
“There are not a lot of us up there, as in lefties," he said. "It’s kind of in the back of my mind that it could be easier to get up there, more opportunity. But for right now I will just try to get better at what I need to get better at and fine tune for spring. And hope to make decisions tough for them."