Starting with the good, Araujo couldn’t handle the jump last summer from the Single-A Carolina League to the majors as a Rule 5 pick. He was overmatched and underwhelming, with the club stashing him on the disabled list on June 11. Whatever bad impression he left - and really, no one should have expected a seamless transition - mostly has dissipated with changes in the front office, manager’s office and coaching staff.
Few players in camp need a clean slate more than Araujo.
Moving to the bad, executive vice president Dan Duquette no longer is in the organization and Araujo has lost one of his staunchest defenders. Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde have no attachments to Araujo. Cutting ties with him wouldn’t be admitting a mistake.
“Those big changes, I really can’t control that,” Araujo said via translator Ramón Alarcón. “What I can control is to do my job to the best of my ability. I’m really thankful for the people who brought me here, but now what I see is a challenge. How do I help my team? How do I show these people that I can be here and be a better pitcher than last year?”
Araujo appeared in 20 games and registered a 7.71 ERA and 1.679 WHIP in 28 innings. He surrendered nine home runs and averaged 5.8 walks per nine innings. It couldn’t get much worse.
“I think I was reflecting about it, and last season wasn’t the best season for me,” he said. “I made it to the big leagues, but I wasn’t able to perform and help my team. So the mentality is, how can I be better? How can I better prepare myself on the mental side and on the physical aspect, as well.
“During the offseason I concentrated on being focused on the mental aspects, on improving my mechanics, on attacking the hitters. Simplifying stuff. Just throwing strikes and getting people out.”
The 2017 season at Single-A Myrtle Beach pushed the Orioles to take a chance on Araujo. He went 6-1 with a 1.81 ERA and 0.912 WHIP in 64 2/3 innings and averaged 2.4 walks and 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. The system lacked that type of arm, that level of upside. But the Orioles had to find a way to protect him while knowing that it’s virtually impossible to use him only in low-leverage situations.
“It’s definitely tough,” Araujo said of the jump to the majors. “I noticed that the strike zone is smaller, so you need to improve on that. You need to become a better pitcher. You need to be better prepared and better focused and just be able to simplify stuff.”
Will he be able to break camp with the team and last the required 17 days to lose his Rule 5 status? And maybe earn the right to stay longer?
Keep smudges off his clean slate?
“Last year was difficult,” he said. “This year I feel ready to compete, to earn a spot and demonstrate that I can be here throughout the season.”
Mychal Givens and a healthy Richard Bleier are the only perceived locks for the bullpen on opening day. Assumptions are made that Miguel Castro and left-handers Tanner Scott and Paul Fry also will head north. Two spots would remain in a seven-man bullpen, three in an eight.
A rebuilding club should be able to carry Araujo for at least 17 days. But new eyes will decide it.