The mantra for the Orioles bullpen this year might be “Keep it loose, keep it light and get a lot of outs.”
Are they loose out there because they are pitching so well, or is being a loose group leading to them pitching well?
The second part might be the answer, according to O’s right-hander Dillon Tate. He’s part of a bullpen that, with an ERA of 3.09, ranks fifth in both the American League and the majors. Over the last 12 games, the ‘pen ERA is 1.81.
It’s a group that is pitching and playing relaxed, and Tate says assistant pitching coach Darren Holmes is one reason why.
“Holmes keeps it light in there,” Tate said today during a Zoom interview. “He’s a fun guy to be around. The guys are always messing with him. I’m actually one of the guys that is still pretty quiet in there. I still keep a low profile. But I might crack a joke every once in a while. But having all those guys in the bullpen and just the camaraderie that we have in there, it’s been really fun so far. So, especially as things heat up for us and guys get on a little bit of a roll, it’s going to be even more fun. So, I’m looking forward to it.
“I’m sure it is (one reason for the success). Because, at the end of the day, it’s a kid’s game. And we’re all grown and we’re still playing in the dirt, so we still have to have some sort of fun out there. We’re keeping it light. So hopefully we continue to keep the mood light, keep our spirits up, get on a roll and help the club win.”
Tate is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 0.818 WHIP. He’s allowed just four hits over 7 1/3 innings with two walks and three strikeouts. Opponents are batting just .160 against him and he’s thrown four scoreless innings over his past four games.
“Holmy has given me some small little tidbits to help my delivery out and things that are going to keep me on track for a longer period of time,” he said. “Stay away from those stints where it gets a little rocky. So, just as far as my delivery goes, I’m making progress and seeing what I want to see as the days add up.”
“Seeing those different arms and just being able to be in the bullpen with them is been a learning experience for me,” Tate said. “Because I am constantly trying to pick up different things. Make my slider better. Working on potentially picking up a cutter, so having those two guys throw those two pitches at the clip that they do is really good and definitely an eye-opener for somebody like me that is trying to make a name for myself.”
Tate brought a strong resume to the organization when the Orioles acquired him, along with Cody Carroll and Josh Rogers, from the Yankees for Zack Britton on July 24, 2018. The Rangers took him as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 draft. He’s a former top 100 prospect.
He said he is not seeking any specific role and is ready for anything.
“It’s whenever my name is called, just to be able to go in there and fill that void,” Tate said. “And get after it and just be aggressive. I can’t say that I really have a preferred role at this time. I take that back. If I was going to say I had a preferred role it would be just to continue to be in the bullpen, be with the club and help the club win as much as I can. That’s good enough for me.”
Over parts of three seasons with the Orioles, Tate has now thrown 45 innings over 36 games. All outings provide opportunities to learn and get better for a cerebral pitcher.
“Each time is different when I’m out there, so I’m just trying to soak it up,” he said. “Because baseball is one of those sports where you’ve never seen it all. I’m sure you guys can attest to that. You see new things by the day. So, as I’m going out there, I’m just trying to read the hitters, read the swings and take in as much information as I can so far with just this small sample size.”
Tate has leaned on his two-seam sinker much more than his four-seamer this year, but said he continues to work on both pitches. He is doing a pretty remarkable job of getting weak contact to this point, with an average exit velocity against of 81.5 mph. That ranks in the top one percent in the big leagues.