Can Donnie Hart make the team and change a perception?

While still waiting for Aretha Franklin to finish her version of the anthem before the Vikings-Lions game ...

It’s been established that the Orioles are in the market for another reliever this winter. Maybe two. They’d take a left-hander or a right-hander. It’s a call to more arms.

Donnie Hart has no idea whether he’s got a spot reserved in the bullpen, but he’s making the assumption that he must earn it. That’s been the pattern with Hart and he doesn’t expect it to change overnight.

The 22 appearances with the Orioles give him an edge because he made the most of them. While we rightfully fawn over closer Zach Britton and his historic season, we should at least notice that Hart allowed only one run in 18 1/3 innings. That he held opponents to a .194 average as a rookie making the jump from Double-A Bowie.

Hart-Throws-Orange-Sidebar.jpgEastern League All-Star and the organization’s minor league Pitcher of the Year in the same season. Got to be worth something, right?

“I’m definitely in a different spot than I was a year ago,” Hart said. “Obviously, I’ve gotten the time to face big league hitters and show I can get them out. But I still have to prove that. That’s going to be my mindset.

“I’ve had to prove I can get guys out at every level. Nothing has ever really been handed to me and I don’t mind. I kind of like it that way. I’ll go to spring training like that’s my job to take. Whether they want me to take that role or it is my role, I’m not sure. I’ll just look at it as I’ve got to go in and earn that spot and keep it.”

Hart, 26, will accept any role with the Orioles, but he’d rather not be typecast as a left-handed specialist. The label will be hard to remove after left-hander hitters went 5-for-38 with 11 strikeouts against him in the majors. Right-handers were 7-for-24 with one strikeout, and the only run off him came on Hanley Ramirez’s home run on Sept. 22 after 18 straight scoreless appearances.

Right-handers hit .267 against Hart at Bowie this year, .265 against him at Single-A Frederick in 2015 and .246 against him at low Single-A Delmarva in 2014. Left-handers hit .188, .095 and .200.

“I think anytime you can get guys out from both sides of the plate, that helps the team out, helps guys who come in after me,” Hart said. “We talked about it and I heard it from Zach and Brad (Brach) and Darren (O’Day). You pass the baton. If you don’t do your job, they can’t do theirs.

“I want to prove that I can get righties out as well as I get left-handers out. I think I can do that. I didn’t get to face as many right-handers as I did left-handers, obviously. The only run I gave up was to a right-hander. But if I hold them to singles and not allow extra-base hits if I can’t get them out, that will be key. But I think I can get them out. And one of my goals in spring training is to prove that.”

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