A look at a minor league reliever with three solid seasons on the O’s farm

Chris Petrini has never started a game on the mound in three seasons pitching in the Orioles’ minor leagues, but after putting up more solid numbers again in 2012, maybe he’s now starting to make a nice impression on the team brass.

The 25-year-old lefty has been overlooked at times because he was not drafted and spent five seasons in college at the University of California. He took a redshirt season in 2007 after Tommy John surgery.

Signed as a non-drafted free agent in June 2010 by scout James Keller after his senior season with the Golden Bears, Petrini is 12-9 with a 2.33 ERA in three years on the O’s farm. Over 177 2/3 innings, he has given up just 134 hits with 71 walks, 191 strikeouts and a .209 batting average against.

“It’s not the kind of stuff where you say, ‘Wow, this is electric stuff,’ but you look at how he performs,” said Orioles director of pitching development Rick Peterson “He has great competitive intelligence and he understands the art of pitching. His numbers clearly show that.

“He has great mound presence. The value is beyond what you grade his stuff out because he’s not a high-end velocity pitcher. He won’t light up the radar gun, but he gets batters back in the dugout quickly.”

Petrini was with the Rookie League Gulf Coast League Orioles and Bluefield in 2010, spent most of 2011 with Single-A Frederick and most of last season with Double-A Bowie.

He went 6-3 with a 2.62 ERA for the 2012 Baysox. Over 68 2/3 innings, he allowed 59 hits with 22 walks, 67 strikeouts and a .229 average against.

After last season, he pitched in the Arizona Fall League, going 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA, allowing nine runs over 11 1/3 innings for the Mesa Solar Sox.

“He’s in that 90, 91 (mph) range and pitches consistently there,” Peterson said. “He can sink the ball and has breaking stuff with nice, late action. He’s got some nice off-speed pitches that complement his fastball. But he understands pitching and to work hitters up and down, in and out and he understands where the head of the bat is and how to attack hitters.”

Petrini was a multiple-inning reliever for Bowie, and would usually pitch at least two innings and sometimes even four. That was by design.

“That is part of our philosophy in developing pitchers. You want to take some of your best assets and get them as many innings as you can. We are not looking for 60-70 appearances at the minor league level. It’s not that he couldn’t come in to get lefties or pitch back-to-back days, but our philosophy is get him multiple innings,” Peterson said.

With Frederick in 2011, lefty batters hit just .125 off him and right-handed batters hit .238. Last year at Bowie, lefties hit .203 off Petrini and righties hit .237.

He doesn’t make many of those top prospects lists, but his continued progress up the O’s minor league ladder, Peterson said, could possibly get him a major league shot in the next season or two.

“I think so, without question. You never have enough left-handers in your organization. That’s a commodity, a major asset. Everyone is always looking for lefties and Chris gets righties out too.”

The native of San Bruno, Calif., has made a steady rise on the O’s farm, even if its one that has often flown under the radar.

Will he remain in the bullpen during this coming season?

“As of right now. But you can’t totally rule out (starting). This will be a telltale year for him. When you perform at Double-A, now can he make that next transition?” Peterson said.

The series contiues: This is the third installment in our offseason look at pitching prospects on the O’s farm. If you missed it earlier, I wrote about Josh Hader and Eduardo Rodriguez earlier.

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