Orioles rookie Tanner Scott gains confidence from strong relief outing

It's just six weeks into the season, and Orioles reliever Tanner Scott has already seen his share of the Triple-A Norfolk shuttle. He's been called up from the minors three times – most recently Wednesday. His previous two trips were short, but if the hard-throwing left-hander continues to pitch as he did in Thursday's 11-6 win over the Kansas City Royals, he will make it hard for the team to send him down again.

Scott had his most dominant performance as a major leaguer Thursday, retiring six of seven batters he faced over two scoreless innings, with four of his six outs coming by strikeout.


Not bad for a 23-year-old making his sixth major league appearance.

Scott is unquestionably considered part of the Orioles' future plans. He's one of their few major league-ready power arms, and last year's dedication to give him three-inning starts in the minors to work on his command and develop his slider is paying off.


"That's about as much as you'll see a pitcher be able to pound the strike zone," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It was a lot of strikes thrown, good quality strikes, too. His breaking ball has come a long way. It's exciting to watch where he is right now."

Thursday's outing was a sign of that. He pitched aggressively in the zone – throwing 24 of his 31 pitches for strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to six of seven batters and ended the seventh inning with 10 straight strikes, fanning Salvador Pérez on five pitches and Lucas Duda on three.

"When you're starting guys out 0-1, your confidence definitely builds as you go along," Scott said. "You're not falling behind and you start to feel like you can throw any pitch you need to get a guy out. … It's definitely as confident as I've felt [in the major leagues]."

Both of Scott's pitches — a four-seam fastball that averaged 97 mph and reached 99, and a high-80s slider — were effective swing-and-miss pitches to both left- and right-handed hitters. All four of his strikeouts were swinging — two on fastballs and two on sliders.

He will get continue to get opportunities in a bullpen that is without closer Zach Britton and right-hander Darren O'Day, both of whom are on the disabled list. Thursday night's game offered a glimpse of the Orioles bullpen of the future, with Scott tossing two scoreless innings before right-hander Mychal Givens closed it out with a scoreless ninth.

"It's an opportunity, it's a window to get in," Scott said. "I'm going to pick the brains of everyone here to learn some stuff. It's a good opportunity. I'm going to roll with it."

Scott said establishing his slider, and the confidence in throwing it, has helped prepare him for the major leagues.

"It's definitely a huge thing, especially after last year, they had me starting and going three innings and I developed my slider and now I can throw it whenever I want, and there's confidence in it," Scott said. "It's been a big help to my success."


Scott has also shown magnificent command in his brief major league time this season. After averaging 6.0 walks per nine innings last year at Double-A Bowie and walking six in 10 innings at Norfolk this season, Scott has walked just one batter while striking out nine in 6 2/3 innings at the major league level this season.

Take away a two-run, one-inning outing April 25 and Scott has allowed just one earned run over 5 2/3 major league innings this season. He also hasn't allowed a run in 10 innings with Norfolk.

On Thursday, Scott allowed a double to Whit Merrifield on the first pitch of his second inning, the eighth, but then stranded him there, striking out Alex Gordon on a fastball and Cheslor Cuthbert on a slider before getting Alcides Escobar to ground out to end the inning and his outing.

"He's been doing it quite frankly most of the season in Norfolk and everything," Showalter said. "It's been fun to watch him. He'll give up a hit and walk somebody and he gets right back in the saddle. You don't ambush people up here. They know. They're watching tape, they know exactly what you're going to throw. There's no secrets. He was good and athletic."