Mychal Givens didn’t make it into yesterday’s game at Rogers Centre, putting a possible major league debut on hold. He warmed in the eighth inning as Darren O’Day loaded the bases with no outs. That’s close, but it doesn’t count.
O’Day escaped the jam with three strikeouts. Givens has escaped the minors with eye-popping numbers and an open mind.
Givens batted .263/.342/.343 in 1,220 minor league plate appearances before the Orioles moved him from shortstop to the bullpen in 2013. He didn’t fight it, accepted the adjustments made to his delivery - lowering his arm slot to where it’s described as “three-quarters sidearm” - and made the jump from Double-A to the majors.
“It’s velocity and arm angle,” said Brian Graham, the Orioles’ director of player development. “It’s velocity with his 92-97 mph fastball, and the arm angle is lower three-quarters to sidearm. The ball has a lot of life, down and in to right-handers and down and away to left-handers. And then he throws a slider that goes in the other direction. As a hitter, it’s hard on you when a guy makes the ball go in two directions.
“He’s been extremely receptive to the change. He’s been extremely professional. I think when he started to have success, it certainly motivated him more.”
A year ago, Givens walked 23 batters and struck out 28 in 25 1/3 innings at Bowie. He averaged 2.5 walks and 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings with the Baysox this season.
Improvement started with Givens’ arrival at the January minicamp and his sessions with pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti. They suggested a mechanical adjustment, with Givens keeping his chest and release point closer together instead of throwing away from his body. Bring the hands closer to the chest for a more consistent release point.
Bowie pitching coach Alan Mills also observed Givens at the minicamp and continued to work with him during the season to make sure the changes carried over from Sarasota to the Eastern League. And you know the rest of the story.
Givens is the second selection from the 2009 First-Year Player Draft to reach the majors with the Orioles. Left-hander Tim Berry, a 50th-round pick, was recalled on June 6, 2014 and optioned the following day without appearing in a game.
The 2009 draft always will be remembered for first-rounder Matt Hobgood, who returned to the disabled list yesterday at Double-A Bowie with more tightness in his right shoulder. He couldn’t get loose while warming up before his last outing.
Other selections that year included catcher Michael Ohlman (11th round), a one-time prospect who labored at Bowie in 2014 and was traded to the Cardinals. Before yesterday, he was batting .307/.374/.436 with nine doubles, four home runs and 35 RBIs in 46 games at Double-A Springfield.
Steve Bumbry, whose father, Al, patrolled center field for the Orioles and won a World Series ring in 1983, was chosen in the 12th round. Left-hander Jarret Martin (18th round) was traded to the Dodgers for left-hander Dana Eveland during the 2011 Winter Meetings. Martin didn’t make it above Double-A and was dealt to the Brewers in December. He’s on the disabled list and hasn’t pitched this season.
The Orioles took infielder Mike Flacco, better known as the brother of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, in the 31st round. He went back to football.
The next man up from the 2009 draft could be left-hander Ashur Tolliver, a fifth-rounder out of Oklahoma City University who has grabbed manager Buck Showalter’s attention. Tolliver is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 17 relief appearances at Bowie, with 29 strikeouts in 27 innings. He has a live arm and a fastball that climbs into the mid-90s.
The 2010 draft produced right-hander Scott Copeland in the 21st round out of Southern Mississippi. The Orioles released him two years later, the Blue Jays signed him and re-signed him twice after allowing him to become a free agent, and they’re sending him to the mound this afternoon against his former organization.
Baseball is a funny game.
Copeland, a rookie at age 27, is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in four games (two starts), with 16 hits, two walks and five strikeouts in 14 innings. He’s allowed four runs and 14 hits in 11 innings in his two starts, with no walks and five strikeouts.
Right-handers are hitting .333 against Copeland and left-handers are hitting .259. Those are reverse splits.
Chris Tillman has won his last three starts, but he’s 0-3 against the Blue Jays this season. He was charged with seven runs (after a scoring change) and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings on April 12, seven runs and five hits with five walks in 4 1/3 innings on April 23, and five runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings on May 12.
Tillman is 4-9 with a 5.23 ERA in 17 career starts against the Blue Jays and 2-5 with a 6.54 ERA in nine starts at Rogers Centre. The current group is batting .303 against him.
Edwin Encarnacion is 13-for-43 with two doubles and two home runs against Tillman, Jose Reyes is 9-for-26 with three doubles and a home run, Josh Donaldson is 6-for-17 with two doubles and a home run, Ryan Goins is 6-for-17 with a home run, Dioner Navarro is 5-for-16 with a double, Kevin Pillar is 3-for-10 with a double and home run, and Russell Martin is 3-for-7 with a double.
Jose Bautista is only 9-for-34 with 10 strikeouts, but he has three doubles and two home runs.
Just don’t pitch him inside or you’ll get the death stare.