SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles might have lost 108 games last year, but for 26-year-old catcher Pedro Severino, the season was still special. He was given his first chance to play extensively in the major leagues.
He was not even in the organization this time last year. He was claimed on waivers from Washington on March 23, 2019 and then made his first opening day roster.
In parts of four seasons with the Nationals through 2018, Severino got a total of 282 plate appearances. In 2019 he got 341 with the Orioles and led all the club’s catchers in starts, making 80.
While he hit just .187/.273/.287 in his big league time with Washington, he batted .249/.321/.420 with the Orioles. He produced a .740 OPS for Baltimore after recording a .560 OPS with the Nationals. He produced -0.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with the Nats and 1.2 as an Oriole.
His 2019 season included a three-homer game on June 4 at Texas. He became the first Orioles catcher in team history to have a three-homer game. It was the 36th by a catcher in major league history (Severino was the 34th different catcher to do so, Johnny Bench and Gary Carter each did so twice).
It was big for him that, for the first time in his pro career, he got an extended look in the majors.
“It means a lot,” Severino said recently in the O’s clubhouse. “The question was, could I hit in the big leagues? My mentality and my goal was to show everyone I could hit in the big leagues. The difference for me (from Washington) was confidence. We’ve got a great staff over here and great teammates, and when I went up to home plate, I felt comfortable. That is a big thing in baseball. Those guys gave me confidence when I went to the plate.”
Severino is probably in solid shape to make his second opening day roster. But he’s not convinced of anything just yet.
“Sometimes it’s a lot of pressure because I think if you don’t do the job you may get sent down,” he said. “I told these guys (other catchers) we just have to do our best and don’t think about if you are doing bad you may go down. You can’t control that. When you pass the white lines, just do your job.”
Severino has said several times that he got one kind of baseball education with a much-more veteran Nationals team, and another in Baltimore.
“With the Nationals, you were catching a lot of veterans, guys like (Max) Scherzer and (Stephen) Strasburg,” he said. “They helped me a lot and I didn’t have to do much. Just follow them, they are the veterans and know what they are doing. Over here it’s a bigger job, because I have to control and get in charge of these young guys. Everybody likes to be in charge, and I like to help the young guys.”
One of those young guys in camp is 2019 top draft pick Adley Rutschman. He is considered the Orioles’ future starting catcher in Baltimore, and most assume it is just a matter of time. Severino doesn’t disagree with that assessment either.
“You can only control what you do on the field,” he said. “He’s a young guy with a lot of talent. The catcher of the future. I’ll be here and they’ll determine the last day I’m here. Sometimes they say you don’t play for one team, but the other 29 (are watching) too. If something happens maybe someone else will take you. You never know, this is baseball. He is the future of the team. (Chance) Sisco too. They are the future of the team. They’re going to be together on the team.”
But before he exits, if he does, Severino wants to help a young pitching staff try to improve on an American League-worst 5.59 ERA.
“The key, and not just here, is strike one,” he said. “Stop falling behind in the count to every hitter and stop walking guys. Let the hitter hit the ball. Get ahead in the count and you have more chances to get the guy out. A lot of hitters do swing at the first pitch, but you still have to try and get ahead of all the hitters. Be aggressive, no matter who is hitting. After a first-pitch strike you can execute everything else.”
Later today: After losing two games yesterday by a combined 27-6 score, the Orioles (1-4) host the Atlanta Braves today at 1:05 p.m. at Ed Smith Stadium. The game will be televised live on MASN. Asher Wojciechowski gets the start for Baltimore.
The next games I will bring you live on Orioles.com will be on Thursday versus Pittsburgh and Friday in Bradenton against Pittsburgh.