SARASOTA, FLA. — One of the most intriguing attendees at this week's Orioles minicamp is right-hander Jesus Liranzo, a 21-year-old who was just added to the organization's 40-man roster in November to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft.
Last season was Liranzo's first year pitching in the United States after spending his previous three years of pro ball in the Dominican Summer League, first with the Atlanta Braves and then with the Orioles. He moved quickly through the organization, opening the season at Low-A Delmarva, skipping High-A Frederick and finishing the season at Double-A Bowie. Overall, he posted a 1.87 ERA in 53 relief innings, with 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings and just 20 hits allowed. He also averaged 4.6 walks per nine innings.
"The biggest key was working hard," Liranzo said. "[If] you can work hard, you can do anything in your mind. You try to work hard and [listen] to all the teaching your coaches tell you every day. That's the key to me.
"The biggest adjustment was that it's a completely different strike zone, and the umpires. It's also new teammates and a new language, but you can do it when your coaches are teaching you, you can do it again. It's not easy, but you can learn every day. ... You have to make the adjustment at every level that you pitch."
The Orioles saw enough promise in Liranzo to protect him and believe he could move through the upper ranks of the organization quickly. After watching him throw a bullpen session Wednesday during the final day of this week's minicamp, manager Buck Showalter came away impressed.
"He's an interesting guy, especially when you think he's only going to pitch at 22 this year," Showalter said. "He's basically a college senior coming out. He's got a good arm. He's got those high legs and the big hands and all the things that, if you were a scout and walked in, that guy would get your attention. He's got a good feel for pitching. Everybody likes him. Our guys have done a great job with some of the physical issues that he's had when he got here and it looks like that's behind him, knock on wood."
One of the reasons the Orioles wanted to see Liranzo this week is to check up on him physically, especially after he threw a career-high 53 innings last season. Liranzo missed the entire 2014 season with elbow surgery that included inserting a screw to repair an olecranon fracture.
"I feel pretty good in my elbow," Liranzo said. "I don't have any pain in [it] anytime. I think I'm completely healthy now. It's a great feeling."