SARASOTA, FL — The Orioles have almost reached the point where they could have a 40-man roster just for pitchers.
Free agent left-hander Tommy Milone, who accepted a non-roster deal and joined the club Saturday, increased the number of pitchers in camp to 36, and delivered a familiar refrain when asked why he chose the Orioles over some other spring training invitations.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of opportunity here,” Milone said, “so that’s kind of why we chose to come here. There are some open spots, and I think if I can come in here and pitch well and show them my old self, I think I’ll have a good opportunity.”
Milone was 4-10 with a 4.76 ERA last season in a swing role with the Seattle Mariners. He pitched in 23 games and made six starts, producing decent hit/innings and strikeout/walk ratios, but allowing 24 home runs in 111 2/3 innings.
He broke in with the Washington Nationals late in 2011 and made five September appearances before being traded to the Oakland A’s in the deal that brought Gio Gonzalez to Washington. The deal paid off for both clubs, with Gonzalez delivering a 21-win season in 2012 and Milone putting up double-digit win totals for the A’s in his first two seasons as a full-time starting pitcher.
Milone had already made quite a first impression in Washington when he hit a home run off New York Mets right-hander Dillon Gee on the first pitch of his first major league at-bat. He would go on to pitch well for the A’s and Minnesota Twins, but the past four seasons have been a struggle. The Orioles would be his seventh major league club if he makes the 25-man Opening Day roster.
The large number of pitchers in camp might make the odds of that happening seem long, but that’s nothing new to Milone.
“Just like last year being in Seattle, there’s a lot of young guys, and the competition kind of brings out the best in everyone,” he said. “You kind of play up, I feel like, when you’re competing for a spot like that, and it’s something I’ve had to do pretty much every spring training, so it’s nothing new for me.”
He is not the only pitcher coming out of that situation. Fellow veteran lefty Wade LeBlanc also pitched in a swing role for the Mariners last year and said he’s happy to see his past and present teammate joining the hunt.
“We’re both quality pitchers who still need jobs, and the team looking for pitching is kind of a perfect storm,’’ LeBlanc said. “So, it’s cool to be together again. It’s cool to get to watch him pitch again because I enjoy watching guys that are similar to me.”
LeBlanc said he doesn’t feel like the two of them are competing against each other for the same job.
“We’re just trying to fight for jobs on the team,” he said. "Whatever those roles will be is up to the higher-ups.”
Because LeBlanc and Milone both came from a team that regularly employed an “opener” to start games last season, manager Brandon Hyde was asked Saturday whether either of them might be used that way if they make the team.
"I talked to Wade about that because they did that in Seattle against us ... Wade came in after an opener,'' Hyde said. "It’s really (about) what your pitching staff looks like and how it’s constructed. Last year, we had a tough time because we didn’t have a long guy really to go after the opener and what happened with us a lot of times was, using multiple bullpen arms in an opener start, which really handcuffed us the next couple of games.
“It’s something we’ll consider, but I think in an ideal world, we have five starters and roll them out there.”
Around the horn
Several Orioles players have been battling the flu during the first week of workouts. Pedro Severino showed up in the clubhouse several days ago wearing a surgical mask, but was able to work out lightly Saturday. Hunter Harvey and Mychal Givens have also been under the weather and out of sight. The medical/athletic training staff has been working hard to limit the flu from spreading around the clubhouse. ... Right-hander Brady Rodgers, who has had minor arm soreness, had his throwing session moved back a day to Sunday.