Eduardo A. Encina reports on the first day of Orioles minicamp in Sarasota, Fla. (Eduardo A. Encina, Baltimore Sun video)
When right-hander Logan Verrett walked into the Orioles clubhouse at the Ed Smith Stadium complex to report to this week's minicamp Monday morning, he returned to a familiar place.
"I think I got the same locker, too," Verrett said, referring to his time with the Orioles in the spring of 2015. "Walking in today, it was kind of -- I don't know, honestly it felt like just yesterday that I was here, even though it's been two seasons. That's crazy. But it feels good. I've always told everybody that when I was here I really enjoyed my time here and thought it was a first-class organization. I told a lot of my teammates that I'd welcome the opportunity to come back if I ever had it, and so when I got the call I was pretty excited."
The Orioles took Verrett as one of two Rule 5 selections before the 2015 season, but the team did not keep him. They instead held on to their other Rule 5 selection, right-hander Jason Garcia. Though Verrett was regarded as the more polished of the two pitchers, the Orioles went for the higher upside of Garcia.
This offseason, Verrett returned when the Orioles acquired him in a trade with the New York Mets, the team they selected him from two years ago, in exchange for cash considerations. This time around, there seems to be more of an opportunity for Verrett to stick because the Orioles are in need of starting pitching depth, especially after trading veteran starter Yovani Gallardo last week to the Seattle Mariners.
Verrett is attractive because he has experience in a swingman role and still has minor league options. Last season, he pitched both in starting and relief roles for the Mets. His most success came out of the bullpen, where he posted a 2.84 ERA over 31 2/3 relief innings in 2016.
"I don't know if that's the plan they have for me," Verrett said. "I don't know if they're looking at me in that starting role or if they're looking at me more in that long-relief role, so it's really, whatever they want me to do, take the ball and go do it. It's kind of what I was doing with the Mets, that swingman back and forth. Whatever the case is, I'm going to try to do it to the best of my ability and help the team win some ballgames and get back to the postseason."
Verrett said he will prepare for the season as if he's going to start – that's typically how most swingmen approach spring training because it's easier to cut back on innings than build them – but said he'd be content in whatever role is given to him.
"I think I can help this team," Verrett said. "This team has a lot of heart and that's something I noticed a couple years ago. I know it's not the exact same players, but the core group of guys are still here. They're guys who play with heart and play the game the right way. I think that's where I fit in. I think I can help in a couple different ways, whether it's starting or relieving. Long relief, short relief. Whatever Buck [Showalter] wants me to do, take the ball and go do it."
Other tidbits from Sarasota:
>> The Orioles are expected to add veteran baseball man Carlos Tosca to their minor league coaching staff, hiring him to be the manager of the organization's Gulf Coast League team.
Tosca was most recently the Atlanta Braves bench coach, dismissed when manager Fredi Gonzalez was fired in May. A longtime bench coach for Gonzalez, Tosca is a former major league manager, who went 191-191 record in parts of three seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, from 2002-04.
Tosca also has a deep-rooted history with Orioles manager Buck Showalter. He was Showalter's first bench coach with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, and their relationship goes back to the mid-1980s when they were low-level minor league managers in the New York Yankees organization.
>> The organization is expected to promote Kennie Steenstra from his previous role as pitching coach at High-A Frederick to fill the same position at Double-A Bowie, a hole that was created when Alan Mills was hired as the major league bullpen coach this offseason.
>> Former minor league pitcher Tim Berry announced his return to the organization on his Instagram account. Berry, a former 50th-round pick who was once one of the top lefties in the Orioles system, posted a 6.32 ERA at the Single-A and Double-A levels in the Miami Marlins and San Diego Padres systems last year.