NEW YORK - Jimmy Yacabonis didn’t return to Triple-A Norfolk with instructions to just keep doing whatever he’s been doing and get back to the majors at some point in the summer. It was more complicated.
The Orioles needed Yacabonis to work on his mechanics. Fix his delivery to regain movement on his pitches and hope that a spot reopened for him in a bullpen that’s undergone many changes in less than two full months of the season.
The shuttle keeps picking up Yacabonis. He’d like to have it grind to a stop at Camden Yards and allow someone else to occupy his seat.
They don’t give frequent-rider miles to minor league ballplayers.
Yacabonis, 27, was determined to make the most of the demotion and enhance his odds of coming back. The Orioles recalled him on Saturday while optioning reliever Evan Phillips to Norfolk. He had been sent down after allowing four runs over two innings on April 27 in Minnesota to leave his ERA at 6.32.
What did he work on while back on Norfolk’s roster?
The reset couldn’t begin until he was refreshed.
“Just kind of keeping my mechanics consistent and staying on top of the ball,” Yacabonis said before last night’s postponement. “Got some rest when I was down there and was able to get back into a routine of lifting and just kind of monitoring my throwing program. I think before I got sent down I was just run down a little bit, getting on the side of the ball and not getting my true action, the action out of my hand, because my hand was dropping, my arm slot was dropping. So I just tried to focus on staying on top of the ball and driving my pitches through the zone.”
Yacabonis found the experience to be beneficial, but whether it shows up in his results is another matter. He’s only pitched once upon his return, and he allowed one run with three strikeouts in two innings against the Angels. In three games with the Tides, he was charged with two runs and three hits in 5 2/3 innings and he issued three walks in 1 2/3 innings against Charlotte on May 9.
“Obviously, it’s not something that I want to do, to keep going back and forth,” he said. “I want to stay here and establish myself as a major leaguer, but when I go down there I’m still on the 40-man roster. I think of it in like positive terms and an optimist. I’m not trying to be pessimistic about anything.
“I think there are people who are in worse situations. I’m still in a good spot. I’ve just got to keep working. It’s just one of those things, baseball is one of those games. It’s like you just keep working hard.
“I could go out there today and have a great game and the next day could be terrible, so it’s just about keeping that consistency every day and just keeping a level head.”
Yacabonis has registered a 5.29 ERA and 1.506 WHIP in 37 major league games, but he owns a 3.28 ERA and 1.272 WHIP in 214 minor league games since the Orioles drafted him in the 13th round in 2013 out of St. Joseph’s University.
Each poor outing with the Orioles can lead to another call to the manager’s office. Yacabonis can’t let it burden him. No good will come of it.
“I try not to think like that,” he said. “Of course that thought will run through your head, but I feel like the less I think about it, the more successful I am and the more I’m able to focus on my craft and getting better. So I feel like the more I focus on what I can’t control is when it affects me more.”
The Orioles have abandoned the idea of making Yacabonis a starter, a role he filled in seven games last season, often tabbed as the 26th man for a doubleheader. He made 21 starts with Norfolk last season, but manager Brandon Hyde indicated over the weekend that the idea hasn’t been discussed.
“I think it’s beneficial, regardless, just being up here and getting the experience, whether it’s starting or relieving,” Yacabonis said.
“I think it’s definitely going to help that I’m just going to have one role, but I’ve pitched in multiple roles out of the bullpen, too. Like a multiple-inning guy. I’ve come in and gotten two outs, I’ve come in with guys on, I’ve come in with clean innings. It’s kind of like I’m doing everything out of the bullpen, so I feel like starting last year has helped me for this year, too.”