The articles posted in the offseason list him among the projected starting pitchers. People with a tremendous amount of influence in the Orioles organization expect him to make it, as if it would take some bizarre occurrence to deviate from the plan.
So why won’t right-hander Asher Wojciechowski believe it?
Wojciechowski isn’t used to arriving at spring training with a job basically waiting for him, but these are the 2020 Orioles and a rebuild makes it possible to change the narrative.
If the season began later today, the 31-year-old Wojciechowski would slot third behind John Means and Alex Cobb, with a bunch of candidates vying for openings in the back end of the rotation. He offered mixed results last summer after arriving in a July cash transaction with the Indians, but the positives and an obvious need are conspiring to make him a likely inclusion on the 26-man roster.
“It’s definitely a different position than I have been in. I’ve never been in this position in my 10 years of professional baseball, of people slotting me into the rotation,” Wojciechowski said Thursday night on the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan.
“The one time I’ve made an opening day roster was with the Astros in 2015, but I think I was a surprise then because I dominated that spring training and I was a surprise pick to make the opening day roster. So it’s definitely a new position for me to see that, but mentally, I’m preparing like I always do every single offseason.
“I’m working my tail off every day, I’m getting prepared and I’m going to come in and compete like I always compete and work as hard as I can and see what happens. But I won’t let what any articles or anything people say affect me in that way. I’m just going to keep on doing what I’ve done and work hard and control what I can control.”
During one of his media sessions at the Winter Meetings, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias brought up Wojciechowski’s name while talking about how the club could construct the rotation.
“Even somebody like Wojciechowski that wouldn’t necessarily be going into spring training as a frontrunner for a rotation spot, he’s kind of earned a right of first refusal with how he pitched for us,” Elias said.
Go back a week and Elias was more direct.
“Asher was really kind of a godsend for us in the middle of the year when we were scraping for pitching and we spotted him in the Triple-A rotation of the Cleveland Indians, reached out to them, made a real minor cash trade for him,” Elias said. “We all remember that gem he had against the Red Sox (July 21), actually one of the statistically best performances in Orioles history when it was 100 degrees. Just put up a good fight for us every start.
“He’s got a really good breaking ball that he relies on. He’s a gutty, competitive guy, he knows how to pitch, he’s a veteran, he’s been around the block. So I like the fact that he’s on our roster, and right now if the season started today I think he’d absolutely project for a rotation spot if he shows up in good health at spring training.”
Wojciechowski, in his second tour in the Orioles organization, made 16 starts and one relief appearance following the trade and posted a 4.92 ERA and 1.312 WHIP in 82 1/3 innings. He had a 1.4 WAR per Baseball-Reference.com.
The 54 strikeouts in the first nine starts ranked as the fifth-most in team history.
“I just looked at it as a great opportunity to go out and showcase my skills and try to help the team win and really go out there and establish myself as a starting pitcher. And I thought I did a pretty good job of that,” he said.
“I definitely had a few games that I’ve learned from, but I think for the most part I was happy with the way that I competed and went about my business and prepared for each game. I’m really looking forward to this next season of coming in prepared and knowing what to expect.”
Wojciechowski was 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.643 WHIP in six August starts over 28 innings after posting back-to-back quality starts to close out the previous month, including his gem against the Red Sox. One hit and 10 strikeouts over 7 1/3 scoreless frames.
The length of the season was catching up to Wojciechowski, who had already worked 84 2/3 innings with Triple-A Columbus. He felt it and made no secret about it.
“Definitely I was feeling some fatigue in late August, early September,” he said. “That was the most I had thrown in a long time. If you look at my career from 2015 on, I had not thrown that many innings. I had made every start up to that point. I was making 28 straight starts and was at 140-150 innings, so I was feeling something I hadn’t felt in a while, as far as the fatigue.
“But I think when Brandon (Hyde) gave me a few extra days off in between starts, that really helped calm my mind and calm my body and kind of finish strong with my last couple starts.”
He went out on a high note with another six scoreless innings in Boston. The Red Sox just didn’t stand a chance.
So how can Wojciechowski miss more bats and also avoid hitting that same wall?
“I think just building a good foundation in the offseason, which I try to do,” he said. “I work extremely hard at it in the offseason with workouts and training. But I also think understanding how the season takes a toll on you and getting that experience and understanding when to back off training-wise, when to back off throwing-wise to try to help navigate that August-September feeling. So mostly I’d say it’s just experience and understanding your body, understanding how you feel and try to really just navigate those waters.
“I’m definitely looking forward to increasing my innings this year, getting to 200 innings and finishing strong.”
It would require having him in the rotation.
Wojciechowski may have to concede that he is, indeed, going to be part of it.