As Orioles rookie David Hess takes the mound for his sixth big league start Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox, one month after he made his big league debut, he'll be doing something that any pitcher becomes familiar with on the way to majors.
Luckily for him, it's something the reams of information available for major leaguers makes a bit easier.
Hess will face a repeat opponent for the second time in a month, and though any pitcher who can navigate the minors does so by facing the same teams constantly, the 24-year-old says the thing that stands out to him most about this month is just what he has at his disposal at this level.
"More than anything, I think [it's] the information that's at our fingertips," Hess said. "At that point, it's a matter of utilizing that. ... One thing I noticed in the minor leagues, I was talking about this the other day with a couple guys, you're almost having to use your eyes more than hard facts as to what works and what doesn't.
"Sometimes, that can be a little deceptive. I think being able to see video of whatever guys you want, kind of the hot and cold zones, and being able just to see exactly what you need to make up a game plan that you want going forward, I think that's been huge and I think that's something I've tried to utilize as much as I can."
With four quality starts in five games and a 3.07 ERA in his major league career, Hess has found how to do that well. The one time he faced the same team twice — the Tampa Bay Rays that he debuted against — he actually improved, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings two weeks after they scored three runs in the first of his six innings May 12.
The only team to really get to him were these Red Sox, who homered three times en route to scoring five runs in 4 2/3 innings May 20. Hess relishes the opportunity to use the information at his disposal, as well as his experience against them, to reverse that result.
“I think going into it, you definitely want to utilize what you've done in the past and what has worked and what hasn't and kind of make some adjustments,” he said. “I think we'll just go in and dig into the scouting report and see based on that what we want to do, then at that point, it's a matter of execution and letting everybody do what they do best."
In Hess' case, he's mostly done that in the majors. His minor league track record shows a pitcher who, when at his best, doesn't strike out a ton of batters but throws strikes and limits base runners. He's held opponents to a .251 minor league average and .245 in the majors, with a 1.31 minor league WHIP and a 1.19 WHIP in the majors. He's fanned 4.91 batters per nine innings in five big league starts, down from 7.28 in the minors, but he's more concerned with the overall results at this point.
"Once you get out there, it's a matter of still trying to read swings," Hess said. "You're still trying to just pitch, but at the end of the day, you kind of see going into it a little bit of, if I'm in this position, what do I need to do to be successful, to get soft contact on the ball in play or at times when you need a strikeout, you can kind of use your strengths a little bit in certain areas, just going in knowing what you need to do to make that happen."