Orioles beat writer Jon Meoli talks about the three minor league players the O's received in the Zach Britton trade. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
The expectations, with his status as a former first-round draft pick and a trade deadline headliner for the second time in three years, are nothing new to Orioles pitching prospect Dillon Tate.
What’s different now — three years after the Texas Rangers selected Tate fourth overall and two years after they dealt him to the New York Yankees for Carlos Beltrán in a pennant race — is the pitcher the Orioles brought back when they sent Zach Britton to the Yankees on Tuesday.
Tate, at Camden Yards Friday with fellow new Orioles prospects Yusniel Díaz, Dean Kremer, Zach Pop and Rylan Bannon — the latter four acquired for Manny Machado from the Los Angeles Dodgers and assigned to Double-A Bowie — said he’s learned to cope with all that comes with the life of a touted prospect on the mound and off it.
“The funny thing is that it’s so gradual,” Tate said. “When I go back and I think about where I was three years ago, when I was first drafted and first getting into pro ball and I look at myself now, I see the progress that I’ve made. It’s gradual. It’s slow, but sure. It’s pretty cool to see myself getting better.”
Judging by the year he was having at Double-A Trenton this year in the Yankees system, Tate isn’t the only one who has seen improvement. He was 5-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 82 2/3 innings with 75 strikeouts and 25 walks over 15 starts, on the back of an injury-shortened 2017 when he posted a 2.81 ERA in 83 1/3 innings.
Last year, it was a shoulder strain that kept him off the mound until mid-June. In 2016, an early-season hamstring injury seemed to derail things. But the 24-year-old been healthy almost all of this season, save for a quad injury that kept him out of the Eastern League All-Star Game, and is seeing the benefits of pitching regularly and building on his success.
“It’s great to get to go up there and pitch, but you can’t do that if you’re dinged up and on the DL,” Tate said. “Health is something that can be overlooked sometimes, and you take it for granted a little bit, because when you’re feeling good, you don’t think twice about being able to progress because you are healthy.
“You don’t really see it that way, but you understand when you’re on the DL, your progress is halted. You can’t go out there and perform and compete. It’s been pretty big to stay healthy for the majority of the year, but ultimately, I just am learning about my body still and just trying to figure out ways or me to stay off the DL.”
Other than simply being healthy, he said he’s competing more and been more consistent in his delivery this year. A scout who has seen Tate at every stage of his professional career said the Yankees cleaned up some things about his delivery to eliminate some unnecessary parts. Tate said that has been a big factor in his success.
“I used to have this problem, and sometimes I still do, with my hands,” Tate said. “I had this tendency to push them down and away from my body. As I’m going to the plate, my hands are getting pushed down and back toward second base. That would throw off my release point a lot of the time. It would affect a lot of my pitches. That’s been cleaned up some, and I’m still working on other things right now. I’m just trying to be more consistent.”
He said his changeup, which he judges as his best off-speed pitch, has come “a really long way” since he was in college. Same with his fastball command and his slider.
“I’m just looking to keep this progress up,” Tate said. “It doesn’t have to be a lot. It doesn’t have to be a crazy amount in one short time. Just slow but steady incline is what I’m shooting for.”
Such patience is something he didn’t have when he was saddled with the expectations of being a top-five pick, or the next great Yankees starter. He conceded he used to give timetables for when he thought he could be at a place like Camden Yards pitching.
“Now, I don’t really think about that anymore,” Tate said. “I just kind of go one step at a time, and when it happens, it happens.”
Susac on disabled list
Catcher Andrew Susac suffered a broken forearm after being hit with a foul ball in the second game of a doubleheader Thursday at Triple-A Norfolk, manager Buck Showalter said.
The award is given annually to families that exemplify what it means to be a Little League parent, and will be presented during the Little League World Series next month in South Williamsport, Pa.
Congratulations to Brad Brach's parents, Mike & Mary Brach, who have been named the 2018 George & Barbara Bush @LittleLeague Parents of the Year, presented annually to the parents of an MLB player who were actively involved in their son’s Little League experience. pic.twitter.com/qPG5aGWrAC