TORONTO — The call came shortly before midnight Wednesday night, instructing Stefan Crichton to pack his bags and head to Toronto for his first big league call-up.
The right-handed reliever knew he had turned heads during spring training, tossing eight scoreless innings coming over from minor league camp. But he didn't expect he'd have this opportunity so quickly.
"Absolutely not," Crichton said. "It's hard to kind of put what I am thinking into words, but very, very excited to be here."
The fact that the Orioles called up Crichton this quickly is surprising, especially after he was not in big league camp all spring. As one of the players who went to Sarasota, Fla., to participate in the team's minor league minicamp in January, he earned the opportunity to pitch late innings of early Grapefruit League games. And as he piled up scoreless outings, he kept getting invited back, giving him the indication he was starting to be noticed.
"Yeah, anytime Buck [Showalter] asks for guys to come over and you repeatedly get that invite, it's definitely not so much a sign, but obviously you are doing something right if they keep asking for you to come back," Crichton said.
Crichton said working with Orioles bullpen coach Alan Mills last year when Mills was Double-A Bowie's pitching coach helped him hone the mental challenges of the game.
"I think personally, you always hear about the mental side and that was something I truly didn't understand until I worked with Mills," Crichton said. "… He helped me to understand that better. For me, a lot was the mental side. I have the same stuff I had last year, but I'm better this year because I'm stronger between the ears."
Asher taking opportunity in stride: Orioles right-hander Alec Asher, who will fill start Saturday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays, realizes he's one of several optionable pieces who could be shuttled back and forth between the majors and Triple-A Norfolk this season. But he is embracing the opportunity to further impress on the Orioles that he can be a major league contributor.
"Right now, I'm just taking it one start at a time," said Asher, who was with the club in Toronto on Friday as part of the 24-hour taxi squad before being officially called up for Saturday's game. "… Anytime you get called up to the big leagues, it's exciting. It's the main goal. You want to get here. You want to stay here, so yeah, it's definitely exciting to know that you've kind of earned a spot, and from here it's just taking it one game at a time."
Showalter said Asher will have the opportunity to earn a longer look in the Orioles rotation, which needs a fifth starter for the first time this season on Saturday. But Showalter added that possessing so many viable options to fill that spot on a case-by-case basis allows the team to be better equipped to play matchups.
"It's an opportunity, but it allows us to kind of have a 26th player," Showalter said. "… If we have a need or if someone gets hit with a line drive in the first inning, we're able to withstand it. It's one thing to have depth and optionable pieces, but you've got to get people out. A lot of people have a lot of people, but can those people perform at this level? That's the other part of the equation."
Asher, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies late in spring training, has been in the organization for less than three weeks. He made just one Grapefruit League appearance for the Orioles and made just one start at Norfolk, throwing 4 1/3 scoreless innings for the Tides on Monday, before being called up.
"It's been a quick turnaround," Asher said. "But I feel like it's all for the good, and I'm happy with it and I'm excited. It happens fast, but you're playing the same game and when you're around good people and you're just changing colors and uniforms. It's exciting to be in this place and hopefully we'll win."
Around the horn: Catcher Caleb Joseph received his second start of the season Friday as starter Welington Castillo received the day off. Showalter said he wanted to give Castillo a day off this series. Friday made sense since Castillo has strong numbers against Marco Estrada, the Blue Jays' Saturday starter. Castillo is 8-for-26 with four homers and eight RBIs against Estrada. … Showalter also plans to give shortstop J.J. Hardy a day off over the next two days to keep him from playing four straight days on the Rogers Centre turf. … Showalter said right-hander Chris Tillman's work day Friday in Sarasota went well and he's still scheduled to make his first minor league rehabilitation start Monday at Bowie. He is scheduled to throw three innings or 45 pitches. … Orioles pitchers took batting practice before Friday's game in preparation for the team's upcoming interleague series in Cincinnati.