Left-handed pitching prospect Keegan Akin was called up from the secondary camp in Bowie by the Orioles on Saturday, and his pending debut will mark the first time a prospect has played a part in the team’s shortened 2020 season.
Akin, who was the team’s No. 9 prospect according to Baseball America entering this season, spent the entire 2019 season at Triple-A Norfolk and was in spring training with the major league team this year.
He came up with the Orioles needing a starting pitcher for Sunday’s series finale with the Washington Nationals, but the Orioles will instead have Asher Wojciechowski start on three days rest after using just 67 pitches in his start in Wednesday’s doubleheader.
“We feel comfortable with [Wojciechowski] going out there and making the start tomorrow,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Keegan will be available as a long reliever here tonight and tomorrow for this series. We’re excited for him to potentially make his debut and happy to see him here.”
The reports on Akin out of the secondary site were good ones, Hyde said.
“Throwing the ball well, being built up as a starter, continuing to work on command and work on some things that we talked with him about in spring training and in summer camp,” Hyde said. “He’s doing a nice job down there getting his work and gives us some length for a guy that’s built up innings-wise.”
Akin said that he got a heads-up from director of pitching Chris Holt on Friday that he could be promoted, and was going grocery shopping with his fiance in Baltimore when he got the call Saturday morning. All he knew Saturday afternoon when he got to Nationals Park was that he was available for that night’s game.
Akin, a second-round pick out of Western Michigan in 2016, climbed quickly through a minor league career highlighted by sharing the Orioles’ Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award with fellow left-hander Alex Wells in 2018.
That year, Akin had a 3.27 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP and 142 strikeouts in 137⅔ innings in 25 starts for Double-A Bowie. Because he wasn’t yet on the 40-man roster, he spent all of 2019 at Triple-A Norfolk working on confidently throwing his slider and changeup in any count to complement his “invisball” fastball that hitters have a hard time picking up.
Improving his pitch mix and refining his command have been Akin’s charges from the new pitching coaches in the organization, and he was at the secondary camp in Bowie continuing to work on those things.
“I would say that was kind of my main focus coming into spring this year, and obviously with the shutdown being home, I knew I had to just work hard on those and kind of keep those are priority, knowing that if this day came the pieces would all be there and everything would work out and I would have those pitches and everything would work out for them,” Akin said.
Akin said he returned to his routine of pitching in a pole barn he built with his father to allow him to get his work in while Michigan was shut down because of the coronavirus.
“Those days were crucial at home,” he said.
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