SARASOTA, Fla. — Logan Verrett checked in with his agent several times during baseball's annual winter meetings in December, inquiring about whether any teams might select him in the Rule 5 draft.
The reports coming back were positive; Verrett was on the radar of several clubs. When it was time for the draft to start in San Diego that Thursday morning, however, Verrett decided to tune out. He jumped into the shower at his home in Texas.
"I put the radio on and hopped in the shower, and when I got out about 11:05 [a.m.], my phone was ringing, and it was my wife," Verrett said. "I figured she was just calling to ask if I heard anything. … She had found a link to listen to [the draft] online, and so she had heard my name get called by the Orioles."
Verrett, 24, a third-round pick of the New York Mets in the 2011 draft, was 11-5 with a 4.33 ERA in 28 starts for Triple-A Las Vegas last year while pitching in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. But he didn't get a call-up with the Mets last September and wasn't added to their 40-man roster in the offseason.
So hearing from his wife that he was the 13th of 14 selections in the major league phase of the draft, meaning he would be in major league camp with the Orioles, was tremendous news.
"I was just going about my day normally, packing up and getting ready to go out of town. She called and she was ecstatic. I was speechless," said Verrett (pronounced Vuh-RETT). "It was a cool moment."
In one sense, the move wasn't a surprise.
Since Dan Duquette, king of the scrap-heap treasure, became the organization's executive vice president in November 2011, the Orioles have selected at least one player each year in the big league Rule 5 draft: Ryan Flaherty in 2011, T.J. McFarland in 2012 and Michael Almanzar in 2013.
Duquette loves sifting through the hundreds of players left off other clubs' 40-man rosters to find players who might be able to last an entire year on a big league roster. (If they don't, they must be offered back to the original club at half the $50,000 purchase price).
While evaluating pitchers, Duquette values strike throwers, and Verrett had an impressive 1.7 walks per nine innings in his four-season minor league career. Unlike many other stat-driven evaluators, Duquette puts a premium on pitchers who win, and Verrett has a career 28-13 record in the minors.
But the Orioles' selecting Verrett also seemed a bit of a reach.
They had acquired one Rule 5 pitcher, Boston Red Sox prospect Jason Garcia, whom the Houston Astros selected with the fourth pick and then dealt to the Orioles for cash considerations. The Orioles were selecting at the end of the first round, and their bullpen and rotation already were stacked with players who couldn't be demoted without clearing waivers. It's difficult for a competitive, pennant-chasing team to keep one Rule 5 player. But two?
"It's tough. I mean, not only does he have the competition of the team, but he has the competition of the other Rule 5 guy, which is unlike any situation that me or Flaherty or even Almanzar went through," said McFarland, who was taken from the Cleveland Indians and has become a versatile bullpen piece for the Orioles. "He's doing a really good job of it. He's making the decision tough because he has been pitching really well."
In nine Grapefruit League games, Verrett has allowed three earned runs in 14 innings (1.93 ERA) while walking two batters and striking out 12. He had five straight scoreless appearances before giving up two runs (one earned) Monday.
"What's been unusual is that everything we thought about him, he's showed it here," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's kind of been as advertised completely."
There has been one revelation. Verrett's fastball in the minors sat in the high 80s, occasionally reaching 91 or 92 mph. This spring, used exclusively in relief, Verrett' has touched 93 mph multiple times.
"It started about halfway through camp. I was like, 'Damn, this wasn't on the [scouting sheet],' " Showalter said. "I went back and looked at the Rule 5 reports."
Also impressive is Verrett's ability to throw four pitches for strikes in any count, which he did as a minor leaguer and at Baylor. But without lighting up the radar guns, he stayed, well, under the radar.
"This guy is a pitcher, and that's the key to success," bullpen coach Dom Chiti said. "Tools are tools, but good guys pitch, they use what they have. So, yeah, my first impression was: 'This guy is a pitcher.' "
This is Verrett's second big league camp, but he's much more comfortable now than in last year's with the Mets, where he didn't know what to expect.
"Your first major league camp, you feel a little out of place. You don't want to make a fool out of yourself. You want to fit in and everything, just kind of blend in," Verrett said. "This year, I really feel like I'm just one of the guys. I belong here. I deserve to be here."
He said he feels as if he has bonded with the entire bullpen, including Garcia, his Rule 5 competition.
"It's a bit of an unusual situation, but Jason is a great guy and he's a good pitcher," Verrett said. "He has been one locker over from me this entire spring training, and I've enjoyed getting to know him. And what is meant to happen is going to happen."
It's just that no one knows what's going to happen. Showalter said he believes there is a scenario in which the club could keep both Garcia and Verrett. That seems far-fetched, however. Realistically, the Orioles probably would have to trade one reliever to keep a Rule 5 selection.
The Orioles could work out a trade with the Mets that would allow them to keep Verrett and send him to the minors. But he still would have to pass through waivers. Verrett could clear; most teams passed on him in December. But two big league scouts who watched Verrett pitch this spring have said he would get claimed.
It's a risk the Orioles might have to take. The club is convinced it won't be able to work out a deal with the rival Red Sox for Garcia, whose upside and 98-mph fastball could trump Verrett's polish and poise if the Orioles are forced to choose.
A decision must be made before rosters are set 3 p.m. Sunday. The future of Verrett and Garcia could remain unsettled until close to that deadline, as teams are believed to be less likely to claim another club's Rule 5 pick when their rosters are close to finalized.
"No matter what happens, we are going to be, as long as we are healthy, playing the game somewhere. So that's really all you can focus on," Verrett said. "You can't take it too seriously. You could beat yourself up over it, and that'll drive you crazy, and that's when the game wouldn't be fun anymore."