Yacabonis makes his pitch to earn some time in the ‘pen this year

SARASOTA, Fla. - It seems there are times we don’t hear his name mentioned when it comes to earning a bullpen spot for the Orioles. But maybe we should. After he had a decent September for the Orioles, 25-year-old right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis has had a solid spring training, as well.

In seven games, he has allowed three runs and seven hits with five walks and six strikeouts over seven innings for an ERA of 3.86. Yacabonis allowed two runs in one inning March 3 versus the Phillies. Other than that, he’s allowed one run over six innings with five scoreless games.

“It’s going pretty good,” he said this morning. “The ball is coming out good. Mechanics feel clean and all my pitches feel good. Right now, my main focus is just making quality pitches. I know that the stuff I have can play at this level. So it is more about making a quality pitch rather than trying to overthrow it and make a nasty pitch. Just need to locate quality strikes.”

Jimmy-Yacabonis-gray-sidebar.jpgYacabonis is probably a longshot to make the opening roster. But he’s got two options left and figures to get his chances again this season for the Orioles.

Yacabonis, who turns 26 on Wednesday, has pitched very well at the higher levels of the O’s farm. In 2016, between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, he went 2-4 with 2.64 ERA, a 1.098 WHIP, and with 2.8 walks and 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Last season with Triple-A Norfolk, he was 4-0 with a 1.32 ERA and 0.946 WHIP. The 13th-round pick from the 2013 draft averaged 4.1 walks and 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings. He allowed just 4.4 hits per nine innings in the International League, giving up just 30 over 61 1/3 innings.

The talent has been evident in places like Bowie and Norfolk. And then he gained some confidence from his brief big league time last season. He went 2-0 with a 4.35 ERA in 14 games over 20 2/3 innings. That included 10 September games when he posted a 3.21 ERA.

“For sure. Even the outing I had in Milwaukee in July (allowing one run over 3 1/3 innings), I was in there for a while and had some success,” he said. “When I got that outing under my belt, I went back to Norfolk and did really well down there. Just kind of fine-tuned some things so that when I came up in September, I was ready to go. Pitching well that month really helped me out, too.”

After that game versus Milwaukee, when Yacabonis was asked to get 10 outs, the Orioles sent him back to Norfolk and had him pitch more extended outings out of the ‘pen. In his last 14 games there, he went 1 2/3 innings or more nine times.

“Yeah, I can see that (a multi-inning role) being in the cards again,” he said. “We have a real strong back of the bullpen, as everyone knows, so I wouldn’t be surprised to be in that role again. I was used in every single role last year except for actually starting. I feel like I can do those roles.”

Yacabonis said he has made a tweak to his slider. He’s throwing it a bit harder and has modified his grip with the pitch. He feels it gives him better command of the pitch. Yacabonis knows he is going to have to limit the walks, which has been a challenge for him at times over his career.

“This year, I just feel better with my direction to the plate,” he said. “That will limit walks and that is a big thing for me. I feel good with my overall command and body control. Last year, it looked like I took a step back, but I was making a lot of competitive pitches. When I first came up, I did let the moment get to me a bit and would overthrow some times. But overall, with the experience I got last year and going into this spring, I feel way more comfortable and that I can relax out there.”

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