When the Orioles drafted Mychal Givens in the second round of the 2009 first-year player draft, he was a two-way prospect who owned a high-90s fastball as a pitcher.
And while Orioles initially developed Givens as shortstop, the 24-year-old has gained new life in a transition to a relief pitcher that began last season.
Givens took a huge step in his career over the weekend as he was promoted from High-A Frederick to Double-A Bowie. He’s also given the Orioles' 2009 draft class some renewed hope -- no player from that class has made it to the major leagues.
“It was a lot of joy,” Givens said. “I called the family up and told them I got promoted right after the game. … I was excited. I’m one more step toward achieving my goal.”
In 18 relief outings with Frederick, Givens held opposing hitters to a .174 batting average, going 1-2 with a 3.24 ERA and three saves and 27 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings. Fifteen of his 18 outings with the Keys were for two or more innings, so he also provided some length in the bullpen.
“I got my feet wet last year, and this year, it’s about being a pitcher,” Givens said before Wednesday’s game at Bowie. “Last year it was going through a learning process, and this year it’s about throwing my sinker and fastball and my changeup and slider for strikes. … It’s been [a matter of] just pounding the zone with my fastball and using my secondary when I need to, but my fastball, changeup have been my go to pitches.”
Givens struggled as a position player, playing just one game above the Low-A level and hitting just .247/.333/.311 in four seasons mostly as a shortstop. He briefly moved to second base in 2011 when playing alongside current Orioles players Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop.
“My first two years in the infield, I felt great, and in 2010, I had surgery on my hand and that was a little setback,” Givens said. “It was upsetting, but then the following year it was better when I was able to play with Machado and Schoop. It was a great atmosphere. Playing defense, it was probably the greatest defense I played in my career. But becoming a pitcher really didn’t upset me. I was a two-way prospect in high school and did well with both. It’s just a new chapter to put in the books.”
Pitching at H.B. Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., the same school that produced Wade Boggs, Givens was a starter who guided his team to the state championship game as a senior and was still throwing 96 mph in the sixth inning of that game.
“The only adjustment I had to make was being a bullpen guy and having a set mindset that you had to be ready to go whenever your name was called,” Givens said. “It’s a lot different than being a starter. As a starter, you’d get all the time to warm up, and in the bullpen, you have to get going to help out your starter.”
Givens’ fastball is currently sitting in the low to mid 90s, and he said he believes he can still pick up some velocity. But what’s more important is keeping his changeup steady while improving a developing slider. Coming out of high school, Givens sweeping three-quarters – sometimes sidearm – delivery drew mixed reviews, but his unconventional arm slot can also throw hitters off in the later innings.
“They really didn’t mess with me,” Givens said of his delivery. “There were a lot of talks in high school whether I’d have arm problems or elbow problems, but in high school that’s the way I threw and that’s the way I threw from short. I was really comfortable with that. When they switched me, they just let me go and wanted to see what I could do. I was confident in my ability.”