As spring progresses, confidence grows for Orioles Rule 5 pick Pedro Araujo

When spring training began, Pedro Araujo was just one name on a big league camp roster that included 37 pitchers. Now, with one week remaining until spring training breaks in Sarasota, the Rule 5 pick is close to winning one of three available bullpen spots.

After spending most of last season at the high-A level in the Chicago Cubs organization, he’s had his trial by fire against big league hitters and performed well.

Araujo will go into his scheduled Grapefruit League relief outing Monday afternoon against the Detroit Tigers having posted five scoreless outings in his six spring appearances. He has allowed just four hits – and two runs – over six innings of work, striking out seven and walking just one.

“I think it’s going very well. I’m very thankful for the opportunity that I received right now,” Araujo said through translator Ramon Alarcon. “I feel very proud of the work that I’ve been doing out there so far.”

“Nobody has said anything to me specifically, but I feel very confident,” Araujo said about his bid to make the club. “I think I have a good shot and hopefully it happens.”

Araujo was dominant last year in the minors, posting a 1.76 ERA in high-A Myrtle Beach and one inning in Double-A Tennessee while holding a .833 WHIP and striking out 11.6 per nine innings. Still, that was the low minors, but an equally impressive Arizona Fall League – he owned a 1.74 ERA, 0.677 WHIP and 13.1 strikeouts per nine – put him on the Orioles’ radar, and he was taken with the Orioles’ second Rule 5 draft selection in December.

As the spring has progressed, Araujo’s confidence has grown.

“I feel very well,” he said. “[I have] 100 percent {confidence] … right now. Just trying to get the trust of the manager, and continuing to work on my command.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter has tried to get Araujo earlier into games so that he can pitch against more major league hitters in order to see how his stuff plays, and in recent outings, Showalter has been impressed with how Araujo has mixed his changeup with his fastball to major league hitters.

“The trust is the main thing, having the trust that I can make the pitch that I can get guys out,” Araujo said. “The more experience I have, the more confident I feel that I can attack them.”

Getting a gauge on Araujo is still a challenge, especially since spring training success can be deceiving, and there’s a different feel to the regular season. But as a Rule 5 pick, the Orioles will give Aruajo every opportunity to show the club he can help.

According to Baseball Reference’s opponent quality stat, Araujo is facing quality competition. The stat places a numerical ranking from 1 to 10 on what level that hitter played at last season, and Araujo’s opponent quality average is a 7.5, which is between a Double-A and Triple-A hitter.

He’s faced more major league hitters in his past two outings, both scoreless appearances of one inning apiece. On March 11 against the Phillies, Araujo struck out two of the three batters he faced, getting Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana swinging on offspeed pitches. And in his last outing on Friday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Aruajo overcame a leadoff double by Jose Reyes to retire the next three batters, including catcher Travis d’Arnaud and top prospect Amed Rosario for a clean inning.

“It’s a challenge,” Aruajo said. “Whenever I see one of those guys with a lot of experience, I just say to myself, I know I can get this guy out. I believe in myself. I am very confident so I try to attack them.”

Ynoa improving

Right-hander Gabriel Ynoa, who is expected to open the season on the disabled list with a shin injury, didn’t have a timetable for his return, but said he’s progressing well.

“Right now, the limitation, I can’t run, but I feel very well right now,” Ynoa said through Alarcon. “Very well. … Right now, just making sure nothing bothers me, that everything keeps improving day by day.”

Ynoa, who fell out of the competition for the fifth rotation spot with the injury, was sidelined after his second Grapefruit League on March 4 when he allowed six runs on seven hits over two innings against the Boston Red Sox.

“It is disappointing,” Ynoa said. “I had my mind set to compete, to try to win a job, an opportunity with the big league club. But I have to take it day by day and just get healthy.”

eencina@baltsun.com

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