With a pitch-first, ask-questions-later attitude, Orioles right-hander David Hess hopes to stay calm in the face of Mike Trout. Friday’s home start is all about keeping the slugger’s heavy bat, and the Los Angeles Angels surrounding him, off the board.
“Whether they’re in a high point or a low point in the season … I think [it’s about] having that aggressive mindset and going right at them and putting them on the defensive as much as I can,” he said. “And if we’re able to do that, we’re good.”
After winning his MLB debut May 12, the rookie right-hander (2-4, 5.44 ERA) has stumbled over a rocky June. Among the lowlights have been a 31-pitch, four-run fifth inning in a loss to the Washington Nationals last week and a 7-3 defeat Sunday against the Atlanta Braves that ruined a potential road sweep. The Orioles last won a game he started on May 25.
With those performances in mind, there won’t be a new Hess on the mound to face the Angels, but a meaner one.
“Just going out there and really trying to have good fastball command. After that, just making sure off-speed pitches are crisp,” he said. “Not really changing anything mechanically. Just the mindset of everything, getting aggressive early, realizing that’s the best possible scenario for good results.”
Hess hasn’t lasted longer than 4 2/3 innings in any of his past three starts. In each, he allowed five earned runs, and against the Boston Red Sox and Nationals, he walked more batters than he struck out. It’s a level of competition far removed from Double-A, where last season Hess allowed only 66 earned runs in 154 1/3 innings with Bowie.
There was a chance Hess would have had to wait even longer for his next starting chance. Had Jimmy Yacabonis and Yefry Ramírez not gone deep in Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, Orioles manager Buck Showalter likely would have had to call on Hess as a bullpen arm.
It was a move Showalter did not want to make.
“Couple of our options, we talked about [Wednesday] night,” Showalter said before the game. “I’d like to stay away from David. Doing nothing but starting him on his regular day.”
As much as Hess said he would have liked to face phenom Shohei Ohtani, sidelined for at least the next three weeks by an elbow injury, the right-hander is eagerly awaiting veteran Albert Pujols, whom he said he’d like to strike out "more than anything.”
“When he comes up to the plate, just trying to treat him like anybody else,” Hess said. “He has spots he has a tough time with, just like other guys do, so just trying to execute pitches and show those weak spots as best as we can.”