Cody Carroll notched his third spring training save on March 16, was told the following day that he’d been optioned to minor league camp and seemed to fall off the map.
He must have landed on his back.
An entire summer was spent getting Carroll back on his feet.
Carroll didn’t throw a single pitch with Triple-A Norfolk, undergoing disc surgery and rehabbing before making two appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. The Orioles assigned him to the Surprise Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League, where he’s rounding back into relief form with an eye toward 2020.
Carroll has tossed a scoreless inning in five of his seven appearances with the Saguaros. He’s been charged with two runs and six hits with six walks and eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
“I’m feeling good, I feel great,” he said. “I’m finally getting back to normal. It’s been a long process, but we’re getting there.”
The command is coming along slowly, with Carroll issuing a walk in five of those outings.
“I’m not mad about it,” he said. “Six months off is a long time, so just trying to get my feet wet and try to get back in rhythm.”
Something happened to Carroll after the left major league camp, where he allowed only two runs with one walk and nine strikeouts in seven innings and led the club in saves.
“I ended up having a slipped disc that was pinching a nerve in my left leg, so we took a couple precautions to see if we could have it calm down, which it did a little bit,” said Carroll, obtained from the Yankees near the 2018 trade deadline as part of the three-player package for closer Zack Britton.
“After a while it just kept getting aggravated and aggravated to the point where I ended up having to have a little microdiscectomy to remove part of my disc.”
It’s a minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure, but Carroll’s season was ruined.
“I probably have an inch, an inch-and-a-half scar, so nothing too crazy,” he said.
“My back never really hurt in the first place. It was like, I thought I had a tight hamstring because that’s what it felt like. And then it kind of got progressively worse and worse and that’s when we figured out what it was.”
Meanwhile, Carroll lost a chance to make a firmer impression on the new front office, manager Brandon Hyde and the coaching staff. They only saw the spring training version and stats from the previous season, when he appeared in 15 games with the Orioles as a rookie and allowed 17 runs and 21 hits with 13 walks over 17 innings.
“It was tough,” Carroll said. “I obviously wanted to be out there and show them that I belonged up there. Not having that opportunity wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for this year, but you’ve got to take it how it comes and look toward the future.”
The present plopped Carroll in Arizona. He needed the innings after pitching twice in August for the GCL Orioles.
Carroll allowed two hits and struck out five batters in two scoreless frames before his rehab assignment was cut short due to circumstances beyond his control.
“I think it’s going to be real beneficial for me in the long run,” he said. “Just getting those two in the GCL, and then the hurricane came and wiped out the last two weeks, which I would have gotten two or three more down there, which would have been nice, but it is what it is. Come out here and getting to face some quality hitters as well is nice.
“I’m trying to find command of everything. Slider’s been really good, fastball command has been iffy here and there. But besides that, just trying to clean up my mechanics from having so much time off and really feel comfortable is the big thing.”
A normal offseason awaits before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. The rehabbing is done.
On his feet again and on a mound.
“I can’t wait to get back down there,” he said. “I’ll probably head down early again and get everything ramped up about early February.”
Carroll can get reacquainted with Chris Holt, the former minor league pitching coordinator who has been promoted to a role as director of pitching that more closely ties him to the major league side. Carroll also will be working with a new bullpen coach after the Orioles declined to renew John Wasdin’s contract.
The data that’s flowing more freely through the organization, based on a much stronger commitment to analytics, couldn’t really impact Carroll while he stayed on the injured list.
“Just a little bit. Not a whole lot, considering I couldn’t really throw or do anything,” he said.
“It was kind of just going over numbers from last year and all that, which helps when you know what you’re supposed to be at compared to where you’re at now. It was nice to see the difference and what I can make up or what I need to change a little bit of.”