Hearing from newest Orioles Wong and Teheran on their first day in camp

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Orioles might not be a last-chance stop for pitcher Julio Teheran and second baseman Kolten Wong. However, they’re grateful to be detached from the free-agent market and the uncertainty in their futures, and hope to seize the opportunity as late arrivals in camp.

Their minor league deals became official yesterday and they found their lockers this morning at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

Wong, 33, is trying to bounce back from a hugely disappointing 2023 season, when he batted .165/.241/.227 in 67 games with the Mariners and was released Aug. 3. The Dodgers signed him six days later and he went 9-for-30 to earn a spot on the Division Series roster.

The Brewers signed Wong to a two-year, $18 million contract in February 2021 and picked up his $10 million option for 2023 before trading him to Seattle.

“I learned a lot about how to go through adversity,” he said. “The first time for me going down the DFA route. Just learned a lot about that and took it into the offseason. It kind of gave me a little extra fuel to train harder and do the things I’ve got to do to be ready.”

The Orioles will give Wong a few days to get his legs underneath him after flying here from Arizona. He'll take batting practice and join the crew at second base.

Wong, a native of Hawaii who’s listed at 5-feet-7, concentrated on his body posture after joining the Dodgers.

“I’m a small guy, so if I have any kind of move, the moves tend to be bigger than I think they are,” he said. “And that was my thing in Seattle. I was really crunching my front side, that for me didn’t seem like a big move. In reality, watching video and seeing what that move was causing me to do was a big thing.”

The winter wait for a new team stretched into spring training, and the Orioles tossed him into an infield competition loaded with youthful talent. But he also brings a left-handed bat to the position that they coveted, providing an option if Jackson Holliday doesn't have his contract selected for Opening Day.

“Kind of knew what the offers were going to be,” he said. “I was just trying to see the right fit. Waited around and talked to a couple teams, people who kind of needed a middle infielder, and this just seemed like the best fit.

“Obviously a young team, a team that’s been playoff-bound last year. Just the ability to come in and try to earn a job. That’s kind of all you can ask for in the situation. I’m excited. Talking with the guys and trying to figure out the situation, it seems like a good fit, so I’m excited.”

Wong, a two-time Gold Glove winner and Silver Slugger finalist in 2022, brings a veteran presence but also is more of a quiet leader.

“I’m the kind of guy who’s not going to try to say too much,” he said. “I just want to let the guys do their thing and if they need help, I’m here. But everybody knows my game. I’m not flashy but I get the job done.”

And as recently as 2022 with Milwaukee, when he appeared in 134 games and slashed .251/.339/.430 with 24 doubles, four triples, 15 homers and 47 RBIs.

“I feel good,” he said. “In 2022 I was literally a Silver Slugger finalist, so I knew I can be back again. I think last year I had a lot of things off the field that were changing the way I did life. I had the birth of my son and that was a week before the season started, so I didn’t see my son for the first month of the year. So, that was a big toll on me and my family. But we’re in a good place now mentally and physically, so I’m excited.”

The offseason training didn’t bring many changes to past routines beyond the frequency. Wong became more of a gym rat.

“Just didn’t stop, to be honest with you,” he said. “I had a break in the middle of the season, where I was making the transition from Seattle to LA, so I felt like I had a good amount of time off, and then I wanted to kind of keep the momentum I had with LA, the things that we were doing there that helped me kind of get back to my old self.”

Teheran, who earns $2 million if he’s in the majors, started six consecutive Opening Days for Atlanta. He’s a former teammate of Craig Kimbrel with the Braves and Corbin Burnes, today’s starter, with the Brewers.

“I’m just happy to be here, obviously,” he said. “I know that it’s a great group of guys and I know some of them. But I’m just happy to be here and, obviously, first try to make the team and try to be part of this special group.”

After also having to plunge into the free agent market and wondering who would reach for him.

“It was different, it was hard, but I don’t really complain about it, how this game is getting,” he said. “You know every time it's getting harder and harder. Obviously, I was trying to stay ready for whenever one team needs me and I’m happy that the Orioles called me and they wanted me to be part of it.”

Manager Brandon Hyde said Teheran will be built up as a starter. He has a side session today and will throw one or two innings this weekend.

"Then, kind of fit him in to either start games or piggyback," Hyde said.

Teheran has spent parts of 12 years in the majors, the first nine with the Braves. He made 30 or more starts in seven consecutive seasons beginning in 2013, when he placed fifth in Rookie of the Year balloting in the National League. He also possesses a 3.83 ERA and 1.219 WHIP in 254 games, and he’s a two-time All-Star.

The career took a nosedive. Teheran signed with the Angels as a free agent prior to the 2020 season and registered a 10.05 ERA and 1.755 WHIP in 10 games. He made one start with the Tigers the following year due to a shoulder strain, pitched in independent ball and Mexico in 2022 and returned to the majors last summer with the Brewers, posting a 4.40 ERA and 1.130 WHIP in 14 games (11 starts).

The walk rate plummeted with the Brewers after Teheran had received positive feedback the previous winter from hitters. He's stayed ready by throwing live batting practice to other free agents in Miami.

“Pitching the way that I did, I feel like, OK, that’s how it’s going to be,” he said. “I feel like I can still pitch and get people out here for many years.”

A decline in velocity is compensated by a cutter and sinker that have become legitimate weapons.

“I feel like all of my pitches have been different since the last time I was in the majors,” he said. “That’s something that I really focused working on. And when I went to winter ball and then independent, that’s when I really got focused on throwing my sinker and getting better pitches. It really worked. I got some of the hitters, they told me I looked like a new pitcher, and for me it was like, OK, that was my goal, to come back and look like a different guy.

“I would say that everything moves. My sinker moves in some type of way that I don’t really know. I see the hitters’ reactions. Sometimes, the other pitchers, they told me, ‘How do you get the ball to move that way?’ I don’t really have an explanation for it. Just something that I was playing with. Changing grips, playing with the ball, that’s how I get the ball to move.”

The Orioles will stretch out Teheran as a starter but also keep an open mind about using him in long relief, his role for three games with the Brewers. He’s willing to do anything to stay in the majors.

“I really liked it,” said Teheran, who thinks he could be ready for his first game this weekend. “To be honest, I’m at this point in my career that I don’t really complain about anything and I know that whenever some team needs you to do (long relief), you’ve got to be able to do it. That’s what my mentality is right now."

Teheran also has walked straight into a reunion with a few of his former teammates, expanding his comfort zone with a new club.

“I was talking to Craig yesterday and we asked each other, ‘When’s the last time that we got to play together?’ And he said it was 10 years ago. We looked at each other like, ‘We’re getting old.’ But it’s special to see guys that you played with early in your career and now you get to see them again.”

Bench coach Fredi González also knows Teheran, managing him with the Braves from 2011 until May 2016.

“I remember a young pitcher that, he came up to the big leagues with Atlanta and you watch his growth,” González said. “I talked to Dean (Kremer) about him, because it was kind of a comparable situation, Dean a couple years ago. I’m like, ‘Just keep growing, keep learning from every experience you have there.’ And I always use Teheran as an example. You look at his numbers those first 12-15 starts, 20 starts, weren’t good. All of a sudden he’s starting to get more comfortable. Maturity, experience.

“When I watch Kremer, I watch (Kyle) Bradish and Grayson (Rodriguez), he’s going through that learning experience of pitching in the big leagues, controlling innings. I think that a guy like Julio Teheran will help him. I will ask him to talk to some of these guys about pitching in the big leagues and experiencing the big leagues and growth at the major league level, because he did it.”

González isn’t sure what role is awaiting Teheran, who made 30 or more starts with Atlanta for seven consecutive years, but he’s glad that the Orioles got him. González wasn’t aware of the signing until he saw the report on MLBTradeRumors.com.

“I think his presence here and his maturity level, it’s going to help us,” González said.

* Ryan Mountcastle was scratched from the lineup. Tyler Nevin is playing first base.

For the Pirates

Oneil Cruz SS
Jack Suwinski CF
Ke'Bryan Hayes 3B
Rowdy Tellez 1B
Henry Davis C
Edward Olivares RF
Liover Peguero DH
Canaan Smith-Njigba LF
Nick Gonzales 2B

Paul Skenes RHP

The inclusion of Davis raises to four the number of first-overall draft picks in this game. And Heston Kjerstad was chosen second overall in 2020.

"If you like prospects, Ed Smith Stadium, 1 o'clock," Hyde said. "A bunch of young talented guys out there today, so it should be fun."

Holliday stands out after Skenes' matchup, Burnes ...
Orioles lineup vs. Pirates in Sarasota

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/