The Orioles welcomed two young pitchers from the Single-A Frederick Keys last night as right-handers Blaine Knight and Cody Sedlock came to Camden Yards on an off-night for their team. Before the game, they met some Orioles players, saw the sights at Camden Yards and did a round of interviews.
Knight, drafted in round three last year out of the University of Arkansas, made five starts at Single-A Delmarva to begin this season, pitched to an ERA of 0.68 and was promoted to Single-A Frederick. In three starts with the Keys the 22-year-old right-hander is 0-0 with a 3.38 ERA. For the season, over 42 2/3 innings he’s allowed 21 hits with 10 walks and 44 strikeouts.
So what was it like moving up a level to Frederick?
“Just getting used to higher-level hitters,” said Knight, who has a WHIP of 0.73. “I got kind of used to the low-A-style hitter. They’ll get themselves out if you let them. Now being in high-A, it’s a little more like college was. Mistakes get hit and they don’t chase, and they have their approach. Just trying to get back to that aspect of the game is what I’ve worked on.”
Knight talked about visiting the big league ballpark and how that can fuel the dream to get back there as a player one day.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “We all know there is opportunity right now. But if you look too far ahead, that’s where stuff can go south on you quick. All we worry about right now is showing up every day and doing our work. Then when it’s my turn to pitch, do my job, and hopefully I do a good enough job that gets me starting toward Baltimore.
“It’s awesome. You come out here and see the park and hang out with the players and see what you can have, if everything goes right. That’s what it’s all about, is getting to this spot.”
Sedlock, after two injury-filled seasons, is healthy and throwing like the first-round pick he was in 2016, when he was selected No. 27 overall from the University of Illinois. He is 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA for the Keys in eight starts with a .140 average against and 0.78 WHIP.
He enjoyed his day at Camden Yards.
“It’s awesome,” said Sedlock. “Every time you step into a big league ballpark - especially going down to the clubhouse and seeing all the coaches and players - it really sparks you a little bit. Because this is the goal for all of us. We’re so special to have a minor league affiliate so close to Camden Yards. And to be able to do things like this on our off-day is really special.
“Every day that we’re able to show up to the ballpark, we have a shot. But I think the big thing is you can’t look too far ahead. You have to do what you need to do every day and not look too far into the future.”
Sedlock said being at the Yard helps him realize he’s closer to his big league dream, and that he already feels, in a sense, a part of what is going on with the Orioles.
“When we’re watching the Orioles games, we’re watching some of our friends up there playing,” he said. “You’re rooting for those guys and the big league team to do well. We’re watching them and some of the philosophies that the front office has put into play. And stuff we’re doing on the minor league side is very similar. It’s great to see one of your friends called up, and it gives you hope that it can be you soon.”
Sedlock’s strong year has gotten even better lately with a dominant stretch. Over his last four starts in 22 innings he has allowed just eight hits and one run with five walks and 21 strikeouts. That’s an ERA of 0.41.
“I would say to right-hander hitters my slider has been my absolute go-to pitch, and to lefties my changeup has been the go-to pitch,” Sedlock said. “And when I got confidence in both of those, I was able to throw changeups to right-hander hitters and it was doing well and getting swings and misses. And also throw my sliders to left-handed hitters, and also my curveball. I think being able to throw my slider and changeup in fastball counts has been the biggest thing for me.”
While Knight is pitching in the Orioles system now, this time last year he was a few weeks away from pitching in the finals of the College World Series. In Game 1 of a best-of-three series, he pitched Arkansas past Oregon State. But, led by catcher Adley Rutschman, Oregon State won the next two games to win the CWS. Now, in less than a week, the Orioles could choose Rutschman with their first overall pick in this year’s First-Year Player Draft.
Knight sees him as worthy of the 1/1 pick.
“I think he is. That guy is one of the best I’ve seen,” Knight said. “The way he manages a staff, manages a game. He’s good in the box. He does it all really well, and he does it consistently. That’s what makes somebody great. If they can do it all the time and be consistently good, then they are deserving of a first-round pick.”
DJ Stewart arrives in Baltimore: In his season debut for the Orioles, outfielder DJ Stewart went 3-for-4 and had half of the team’s hits in a 3-0 loss to Detroit. It was his first career three-hit game, and he also recorded his third career stolen base.
During a pregame interview, Stewart talked about feeling the pressure of being a 2015 first-round pick (No. 25 overall) out of Florida State. He said that it took him a while to handle the pressure and the expectations that go with being drafted that high.
“I kind of felt that early on in my career and kind of let that get to me,” Stewart said. “Just trying to do too much. But now it’s four years ago, the first round pick. It’s over with, now I’m just an Oriole.
“Probably after my first full season, that first half. I went to Delmarva to start the year, the first half of the season and kind of struggled there. Then when I went to Frederick, I had Keith Bodie as my manager, and he’s had a bunch of big leaguers like Craig Biggio when he was with Houston. To have that guy in my corner and teach me along the way, that’s kind of when I felt, ‘It’s over with, just be yourself.’”
We’ve heard about some of the analytics making it to the Orioles’ minor league pitchers. Stewart said the hitters are seeing some new things this year on the farm as well.
“Yeah. Not like a huge ... we’re still kind of in the early stages of that. It’s going to get more in-depth as we go. Not a huge amount, but there are certain things that we’re doing down there that are completely different. But small things, you know.”