Pop was perplexed prior to news of trade

Zach Pop received a phone call from his agent Thursday after the Diamondbacks selected the right-handed reliever with the sixth pick in the Rule 5 draft. Pop should expect to hear from someone in the organization. Just be ready for it and congratulations.

And then it got weird.

Pop never spoke to anyone with the Diamondbacks and began to wonder what happened. He was warned instead on a follow-up call about rumors of a trade.

“I was like, ‘What? I just got picked,’ ” he said yesterday.

The Marlins acquired Pop in exchange for a player to be named later. He didn’t get a chance to become attached to Arizona. He barely had time to process being chosen.

“I was just grateful for them picking me,” he said, “and then, of course, the Marlins who valued me enough to trade for me.”

Thumbnail image for Orioles-cap-shades-and-glove-sidebar.jpgPop was available because the Orioles didn’t put him on the 40-man roster. They protected six players, but he wasn’t in the group after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2019.

They knew the risks and banked on teams passing or being unable to keep him through an entire season. But the arm, which unleashes upper-90s fastballs and mid-80s sliders that also induce ground balls and are rated as plus pitches, and a career 1.34 ERA and 0.909 WHIP with nine strikeouts per nine innings were too good for two teams to ignore.

“There was definitely a little bit of disappointment, but at the same time, I know there’s only so many guys that you can protect,” he said. “I haven’t played. I was rehabbing all last year, this year was COVID, so I totally understand where they’re coming from and why they wouldn’t protect me.”

Pop completed his rehab in October, having been cleared to face hitters and throw live batting practice before enjoying a shutdown period at home in Toronto and beginning workouts again. He’s full-go and eager to report to spring training.

It’s a win-win situation for Pop. Make the Marlins’ opening day roster or return to the Orioles if he clears waivers, most likely return to Double-A Bowie and await a possible promotion later in the summer.

“It’s definitely a positive situation,” he said. “I’m going to try my best to break and do everything possible to impact the team now in a positive way for sure.”

The Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers keeps looking better.

Pop has a chance to debut in 2021. Starter Dean Kremer beat him to it in September. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz and infielder Rylan Bannon were protected at the deadline and are poised to play in the majors next summer.

“We’re all real happy,” Pop said. “When we first came over, there were a lot of question marks at the time. Starting over with a new organization, having to find housing, stuff like that. Meeting a bunch of new people. There’s just a lot of unknowns. A new organization, the rules. And once you kind of settle down everyone’s like, ‘Oh, this is awesome.’ We’re all fired up and doing our thing.

“It’s crazy, the journey you go through.”

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