Mychal Givens remembers when sitting in the Orioles’ bullpen felt like a family gathering.
Now he’s back home. A little older, and perhaps a little wiser about the business side of the game that keeps forcing him to change locations.
Givens’ one-year contract with a mutual option for 2024 became official today, returning him to the team that drafted him as a shortstop in 2009, converted him to relief and watched him blossom.
The Orioles are guaranteeing Givens $3 million next season, with a $6 million option for 2024. He’ll receive $1 million if he declines it and get a $2 million buyout if he accepts and the Orioles decline their end.
The family theme also played out during today’s video call with the media. Givens had daughters Ahmya and Makaylah – the “wild card baby” born in 2016 - on each side of him.
“I’m happy to be back with the Baltimore Orioles and just excited to come back as a veteran,” he said. “This is where my daughters were born, as an Oriole, and so it’s fun to be able to have them relive their young lives."
Their father posted a combined 16-3 record with ERAs of 3.13 and 2.75 in 2016 and 2017, leading rival executives to routinely check on his availability and be rebuffed. Givens experienced an odd turn in 2018 by losing all seven decisions, though matching his 69 appearances of the previous season, and watching his ERA increase to 3.99. He finished with a 4.57 ERA over 58 games in 2019 and couldn’t find his comfort zone as a closer.
Givens' stock was on the rise again in 2020 when executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias traded him to the Rockies. He had registered a 1.38 ERA and struck out 19 batters in 13 innings. There was value, and a front office determined to use its chips.
The right-hander with the three-quarter arm slot pitched for the Rockies and Reds in 2021 and the Cubs and Mets this year. The Orioles wanted an experienced reliever with a track record to strengthen the bridge to closer Félix Bautista and turned to a familiar face.
“I always thought I would have an opportunity to come back, with the great ownership and leaving in good peace with the front office and all the things they were doing,” Givens said.
“It’s been fun through the times and I could always call it home with the amount of people I’ve (met) through my career and the friendships I’ve had in Baltimore.”
The Orioles are in an advanced stage of the rebuild since Givens packed his bags, contending until the final week of the season and finishing above .500 for the first time since 2016. They were in the mindset of infusing talent into the system and not worrying about the record, but the team is on the upswing again.
“It’s great,” he said. “Got to face them a little bit when I was in a Cubs uniform last year and got to see the improvements and watching from afar the things they’ve been doing with the young talent. It’s been fun to watch.”
The club is much different, but so is Givens, who turns 33 in May.
“I got older,” he said, smiling. “That’s one thing I could say.”
The Orioles could use whatever leadership qualities Givens has accumulated along the way, what he observed during his first stint while sharing the bullpen with Darren O’Day, Zack Britton, Tommy Hunter and Brad Brach.
“What they taught me, as a whole, when you get older and you try to get wiser and learn your routine, learn to be consistent and understand you’re going to have your ups and downs, how to just basically forget the negative outings. You need to wake up the next day and just go perform and help out your bullpen," Givens said.
“The biggest thing I’d say I take from them is huge is the fact that we made our bullpen a family in Baltimore. We had a great success being a great bullpen, and to bring that back to these young guys, ... Just trying to get better from what they did last year.”
The home clubhouse will be familiar to Givens. He’s become quite good at adapting to new surroundings.
As if he’s had a choice.
“That comes with the game,” he said. “You have to get used to it, the business part of it.”
Givens was 11-for-19 in save chances in 2019 and surrendered a home run in three of four outings during a particularly rough stretch in September. He’s more likely to be used in the middle innings to the eighth next season, where he’s been most effective.
His role might not be revealed until after the Orioles report to camp. Whenever he's called it could happen in pivotal games for a team that wants to make a run at a wild card.
“Just looking to fill in the blank and a lot of things they need from me,” he said. “If it’s being like I’ve done a lot of my career, being a late-inning guy, just go in there and help out the coaching staff and help out (Brandon) Hyde in the best place possible to fill in to make us win a game.”
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