Back with Orioles, Eddie Gamboa wants to give hitters a knuckle sandwich

Right-hander Eddie Gamboa spent eight years in the Orioles organization before finally reaching the major leagues with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2016. Now, he’s hoping to work his way back to the bigs with Orioles.

“Happy to be back, absolutely,” he said Thursday. “The organization that I spent eight years with and I left, kind of ventured off, but in a weird way this is family; it feels like family although it’s a business. It feels good to come back and know most of the guys and coaching staff here.”

Obviously, a spot on the Orioles’ Opening Day roster is a long, long shot — especially when you’re 33 years old and have made just seven major league appearances — but Gamboa continues to refine the knuckleball that allowed him to stick around this long without establishing himself at the major league level.

“I’m at that point now in my career where I feel better throwing it now,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing, just having the confidence in it.

“I always wanted to commit to it. But it’s like if someone were to come to you and go, ‘Hey, I want you to throw left-handed.’ It’s tough, and to do it on the biggest stage in baseball … But for me it’s just a confidence thing and throwing it a lot, now I can pick up a ball and throw it and kill the spin. And I feel a lot better coming back to a coaching staff that believes in you and likes the knuckleball. Not everybody likes the knuckleball. I feel good about it, very happy and excited to move forward.”

Gamboa is certainly right about one thing. There are teams and managers who are willing to take the good and bad that comes with the knuckleball, but there are a lot that are not.

“It’s a lot of stress that comes with it — a lot of wild pitches, a lot of passed balls, a lot of walks,” Gamboa said. “Again, that was something that was hard for me because being a pitcher, I used to have great control. I controlled the running game. All these things that I did well, now it’s it like, OK, I have to kind of accept them.

“Phil Niekro was somebody who really explained that to me. You’ve got to accept it. You’ve got to move forward. You can walk the bases loaded, and you can get out of it, all in one inning. It’s been great. The knuckleball, I’ve been able to meet a lot of great people, a lot of Hall of Famers. Just taking it all in. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I’m excited for what’s to come.”

Gamboa threw his first bullpen session Wednesday to old friend and minor league teammate Caleb Joseph.

“It brought back old memories of Bowie and Double-A,” Gamboa said. “He missed a couple [of knuckleballs]. That made me feel good. I told him I’d give him $20 every time he missed one just to make me look better. No, it’s been great. All smiles. Just seeing everybody. But we’re here to work and trying to do something better than we did yesterday.”

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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