Givens: “I bleed black and orange”

As the Orioles bring in another bullpen candidate in former Red Sox prospect Travis Lakins, they keep holding onto a reliever who wears the trade chip label as if it’s sewn onto his uniform jersey.

Mychal Givens hears the description during the July deadline, the Winter Meetings and the ensuing weeks that lead into spring training. He offers a shrug and continues to ignore it.

Givens has become a veteran in the majors and at avoiding distractions and the stress that accompanies them.

“I’ve heard about trade talks since 2017, so it’s been a long time hearing it, but right now I bleed black and orange,” Givens said last week on the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan.

“I’ve been an Oriole since 2009, since they drafted me. They gave me an opportunity to play shortstop and that didn’t work out and I got the opportunity to be a pitcher and got to the big leagues in ‘15 and had some success and got to the playoffs and other opportunities.

“Right now, I’m an Oriole and until anything changes, I bleed black and orange.”

A trade later this year would dump Givens into the lap of a contender.

He’d rather stand with his Orioles teammates.

Givens-Sisco-After-Save-White-Sidebar.jpg“I’ve gotten to know so many great, young athletes who have come through here,” Givens said. “I’ve always loved going over to the minor league side, getting to know those guys, because I knew how it felt to be on that side. So to be able to get an opportunity to help a young guy get to the big leagues is a great accomplishment because I just want to be that guy, to be a leader.

“I had an opportunity to be with those great guys in the bullpen when I was coming into the league in ‘15. Some great things have really been going on and are going to happen in the near future, so hopefully I can stay here if I can. If not, it’s been a good road, but right now, like I said, I’m an Oriole.”

I’m asked a lot about the closer in 2020 and repeat that the Orioles aren’t in a position to hold back their best reliever - whether it’s Givens or Hunter Harvey or somebody else - for the ninth inning. What are the odds of a lead reaching that point for a team projected again to lose 100-plus games?

The top relievers will be used in the highest-leverage situations. Givens or Harvey could face the heart of an order in the seventh or eighth innings. Manager Brandon Hyde will have his closer preferences, of course, but availability and game situations will dictate his choice.

Hyde can recite Givens’ splits last season - the 1.93 ERA in the eighth inning and 6.69 ERA and nine home runs allowed in the ninth. But too many people are anointing Harvey the closer despite the need for the former first-rounder to prove that he can get through a full season.

Harvey made tremendous strides in 2019, but he was shut down in September. There will be questions, fair or unfair, about his health and durability until he goes the distance.

The workload is set up to get heavier in 2020.

Givens is a weapon. Right-handed hitters slashed .179/.258/.329 against him. He registered a 2.86 ERA and 1.059 WHIP on the road (compared to 5.97 and 1.298 at home). Opponents hit .179/.284/.429 with runners in scoring position and .133/.297/.400 with RISP and two outs. His stuff can be filthy.

The missteps in the ninth inning, which contributed to his eight blown saves, are the glaring contradiction.

“I had a great opportunity to close in the 2018 season and I did well with that,” Givens said. “It was just a learning curve. ... I didn’t put myself in a good routine to be successful. I need to do a better job in limiting a lot of those mistakes. I think just going out there and having the confidence and having fun and being that guy I was in the past and just go out there and get guys out and have fun with it.

“It was just a down year, a struggle. ... It just wasn’t happening for me. A lot more home runs given up than I usually do. It was just a really young team and we had a lot of mistakes we need to clean up for this coming year for 2020.”

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