Stefan Crichton’s (pronounced ste-FON CRY-ton) meteoric rise up the Orioles’ reliever depth chart has landed him on the club’s 25-man roster.
The Orioles selected the contract of the 25-year-old right-hander before Thursday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, and designated right-hander Oliver Drake for assignment to make 40-man roster space.
Crichton wasn’t in big league camp this spring, but there might not have been a player whose stock skyrocketed more dramatically after he performed well as a minor leaguer brought in to pitch extra innings of Grapefruit League games.
He threw eight scoreless innings and posted four saves in Grapefruit League games, allowing just four hits while striking out seven and walking none. He held opposing hitters to a .143 average this spring.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the club considered adding Crichton to the 40-man roster this past offseason to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft after he posted a 3.73 ERA at Double-A Bowie last season.
“After watching him this spring, I felt pretty fortunate we got him through,” Showalter said. “Like I tell them when they leave camp, 'Not being on the roster doesn’t mean anything. If you’re the best guy down there, we’re going to go get you.' It’s kind of what we’ve done and we’ll continue to do. I think that’s why we’ve kind of been looked at as a destination for people who want to come because they know we’re going to take the best performer.”
The addition of Crichton gives the Orioles bullpen an additional optionable reliever who can fill innings, joining right-hander Tyler Wilson and left-hander Vidal Nuno. Both of Crichton’s outings at Triple-A Norfolk this season were at least two innings, and he continued to enhance his reputation as a strike-thrower.
“He’s shown the ability to be efficient with his pitches,” Showalter said. “But that can all change at the major league [level]. We know that, but I like the fact that he showed for us this spring both control and command. Like I said many times, control is throwing it over the plate, command throwing it to the right quadrant of the plate, which is probably one of the most important things up here, is to be able to command your fastball.”
Showalter indicated the situation with Drake is fluid, but because he is out of minor league options and was outrighted previously, his days with the Orioles are likely over.
Despite a rocky spring training, Drake (Navy) won one of the team’s final Opening Day bullpen spots. But he posted an 8.10 ERA in three outings this season, most recently allowing three runs in a one-inning stint in the Orioles’ 8-1 loss Tuesday in Boston.
The Orioles have seven days to trade, release or ask waivers on Drake. The club will likely use the time attempting to deal Drake, a converted starter who evolved into a solid closer at the Triple-A level -- he posted a 0.82 ERA with Norfolk in 2015 -- and showed signs of contributing at the major league level with a strong September last season.
“There’s a human aspect to that,” Showalter said. “This guy deserves an opportunity to pitch on a consistent basis. He’ll end up in the major leagues here shortly and keep going down the path of his career. I feel good for him. He was out of options and we’ll see where the end of the transaction ends up, but I talked to Oliver today. I think in the long run this is going to be a good move for his career. I feel good about that.”