Orioles hurlers not on board with idea of a pitchers' Home Run Derby

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, right, celebrates with Gregor Blanco (7) after hitting a two-run home run as Atlanta Braves catcher Tyler Flowers looks on in the background in the fifth inning of a baseball game Thursday, June 2, 2016, in Atlanta.
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, right, celebrates with Gregor Blanco (7) after hitting a two-run home run as Atlanta Braves catcher Tyler Flowers looks on in the background in the fifth inning of a baseball game Thursday, June 2, 2016, in Atlanta.(John Bazemore / AP)

Ask any pitcher what kind of hitter he was back in high school, and he'll tell you he was quite a good one. Many of the Orioles pitchers fall into that category.

Yet with so many of the game's top arms stumping for a chance to show that to the world in this year's All-Star Home Run Derby in San Diego, the movement to include them in that showcase of sluggers hasn't exactly swept through the Orioles clubhouse.


"I don't know how serious it is," closer Zach Britton said. "It'll be interesting to see who would even put something like that together. But I think the fans would be more interested in watching premier home run hitters as position players doing it than pitchers doing it, because I don't really know if fans are following which pitchers are the good hitters, right?"

One way even casual fans are finding out about who can help their own cause with the bat is by said players advocating for pitchers to be in the Home Run Derby.

It began with Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants, the active career leader among pitchers with 13 home runs. Former Orioles pitcher and current Chicago Cub Jake Arrieta said he wanted in, and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright joined the mix, too. Their campaign, to date, has been unsuccessful.

Perhaps because they're insulated from having to hit on a regular basis, or because they haven't even had an interleague game to spark the thought in their mind, this craze has not taken hold for the Orioles.

"I haven't had anybody ask," manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday, somewhat relieved. Save for two players, he said, "we don't seem to have that skill set."

The first he mentioned was Britton, who was an all-state outfielder in Texas and was considered a good prospect coming out of high school with a future at the plate.

The other is Yovani Gallardo, who has 12 career home runs and only recently was passed by Bumgarner on the career leaderboard.

Gallardo, who is scheduled to return from the disabled list Saturday after two months out with shoulder soreness, won't be in San Diego by virtue of his performance this season. But if Major League Baseball wanted to extend a one-off invitation to the 2010 Silver Slugger winner for an as-yet nonexistent event, Gallardo wouldn't jump at the opportunity.


"I really haven't paid too much attention to it, so I can't say yes or no something like that," Gallardo said. "I just think it'd be a lot of convincing. A lot of convincing, that's for sure. Especially with so many injuries that can happen. I'll have to get more info on it, I guess."

Gallardo always enjoyed hitting, and being drafted and developed by a National League team allowed him to keep it up. But there's a difference between taking a few swings per game and running into one for a home run every season, and what the Derby would be.

"We practiced on it quite a bit," Gallardo said. "Quite a lot. I think it's still not the same thing, same intensity as going out there and swinging for a Home Run Derby. That's swinging as hard as you can."

Britton, who has converted all 20 of his save opportunities with a 0.96 ERA, will likely be in San Diego for his second All-Star appearance. He doesn't jump at the idea of participating in a Home Run Derby, but smiles when asked if it was something he could have excelled at in his younger days.

"Maybe," Britton said. "Maybe. I think it'd be something that would be cool, but is it practical? Probably not. If you could scrape together enough pitchers or enough organizations who would actually allow their pitchers to do that, that would be interesting. I kind of like it the way it is. I'd rather watch Manny [Machado], [Chris Davis], [Mark] Trumbo, those guys and [Adam Jones] hit home runs than go out there and watch the pitchers."

For both Orioles pitchers and those who would have to grant permission for the interested parties, the injuries are the biggest drawback. Hitters who have participated say there's no way to tell how taxing it is to take so many full-effort swings, especially if you advance deep into the competition.


To flip the transition the other way, it's like asking a position player pitching an inning of mop-up relief to throw multiple innings. The adrenaline can carry you through the beginning, and then the toll is heavy.

"There's a lot of risk just going out there and swinging the bat that much," Gallardo said. "You can always get hurt, and it's one of those things that obviously, especially nowadays, starting pitchers and pitchers in general, the amount of money that some athletes make, it's a big risk."

Showalter doesn't see the fuss from that perspective.

"You can get hurt in the parking lot," he said. "I almost went down for the count getting out of the shower today."