As David Hess tumbled out of the Orioles rotation and off the 25-man roster, unable to stay in the zone that carried him through 6 1/3 hitless innings in Toronto on the first night of April, he believed that he had more in the tank.
He used the phrase during our phone conversation last weekend. He mentioned how pitching coach Doug Brocail and director of pitching Chris Holt agreed with him.
It was a group opinion.
But what exactly does it imply?
That he’s capable of pitching deeper into games? Or are we talking about the velocity on a fastball that averaged 93.4 mph per BrooksBaseball.net?
“I’ve said this to him repeatedly,” said Holt, who’s been promoted to his current role from minor league pitching coordinator.
“When it comes to performing in the major leagues versus the minor leagues, it really comes down to No. 1, the skill level and then the consistency with that skill level. And so in terms of what he’s capable of doing, his ability to work for improving his skills and then consistently executing quality pitches I think is really the most simplified way of putting it.
“In terms of like what’s in the tank, he’s flashed that his best velo is up and down the board. It really comes down to how does he attack major league hitters - which pitches and which counts. Just really learning how to pitch at the major league level.”
Hess has appeared in 44 games with the Orioles over the past two seasons and compiled a 4-20 record with a 5.84 ERA and 1.456 WHIP in 183 1/3 innings. A thin rotation could enable him to get more opportunities in 2020.
“I think he can out-stuff guys at the minor league level, and in the big leagues, you can’t do that,” Holt said. “In my mind, it’s less about the stuff and more about his ability to pitch with it. And physically he’s working on a better consistency with his delivery, which would allow him to access his best velo consistently.
“So in terms of having more in the tank, when the delivery is consistent and he has the ability to attack with a plan and the plan is improved for him, that’s where he’s going to improve his performance.”
The latest attempt is being made after Hess visited the P3 Premier Pitching & Performance modern development facility in St. Louis, an idea crafted through a conversation with friend and teammate John Means.
Hess was given a remote program to take back home to South Carolina.
“There’s no lack of desire on his end to improve,” Holt said.
“Last year, he came in and did his best and certainly we saw what needs to improve because we saw a larger sample size over the whole course of the year. In terms of what he’s working on, there’s definitely a plan and there’s definitely some improvements being worked on over the offseason, so I’m excited to see him.
“He’ll be right in the mix to compete during camp and we’re excited to see what he’s capable of doing.”