Yovani Gallardo hasn't been an Oriole for long — just two weeks to be exact — but manager Buck Showalter already liked what he had seen well before the veteran right-hander took the mound for his first spring training appearance with his new team Wednesday afternoon against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Showalter calls it having a "slow pulse." Gallardo covers his intensity with a blanket of calmness, Showalter said. He looks like he's in control of the situation on the mound. Sometimes, the manager explained, it might come off as being unengaged. But Showalter sees that Gallardo is clearly in the moment.
"He knows where the finish line is," Showalter said. "He knows where he has to be. We trust him. He's a low-pulse guy. He's not a guy who is going to be hyperventilating about things. He knows what this is about. It's fun to be around because it shows a lot of confidence. Everybody here is going to have a bad outing this year, and I don't think he's a guy who is going to quiver a lot when the trigger needs to be fired. He's a very calm guy in a good way."
Gallardo allowed three runs in his first inning of work Wednesday — four of the first five hitters he faced reached base — but recovered with a quick 1-2-3 second inning that included two ground-ball outs.
"I felt good," Gallardo said. "You always want to get that first one out of the way. The first inning, once that hitter steps up, you [try to] do a little bit too much. But I was able to settle in in that second inning, get those ground balls, get that weak contact."
After needing 23 pitches to get through his first inning, he retired the Phillies in order in the second on just 12 pitches.
"Second inning, he got the cobwebs out," Showalter said. "He had it going a little better each time. I'm sure he's glad to get that one out of the way and we're glad he's here."
Gallardo's first foray into free agency didn't go as he expected. After declining the Texas Rangers' $15.8 million qualifying offer, he sat all offseason unsigned because he was tied to draft-pick compensation. The Orioles were always one of Gallardo's top suitors, and the sides initially agreed to terms on a three-year $35 million deal.
A concern with the long-term health of Gallardo's shoulder in his team physical — even though he has never missed time with shoulder issues during his career — prompted the Orioles to restructure the deal. But Gallardo will still receive a guaranteed $22 million over the next two seasons in a deal that includes a $13 million third-year club option.
All of that out of the way, Gallardo made his first Orioles spring training start, an outing that was delayed because he signed with the club one week into workouts for pitchers and catchers.
"I think it was a little bit of a different offseason for me this year," Gallardo said. "I think I [couldn't] wait to get the first one out of the way. You've been waiting so long, especially for myself, as a free agent, I obviously ended up signing late. To go out there for my first start, it was fun. It was fun and got good work in, was able to throw the two innings I was scheduled for and that's the most important thing."
The Phillies jumped on Gallardo early. He trailed 3-0 just four batters into the game. Peter Bourjos' leadoff double was followed two batters later by Odubel Herrera's RBI double into the right-field corner. First baseman Darin Ruf then took a 1-0 delivery from Gallardo onto the grassy berm beyond the left-center-field fence.
Gallardo was helped out of the inning when Carlos Ruiz's one-out single was erased by catcher Caleb Joseph throwing Ruiz out attempting to steal second base. Gallardo then induced a flyout to right to end the inning.
In the second inning, Gallardo induced a pop up off the bat of J.P. Crawford and then got a pair of ground-ball outs off the bats of third baseman Taylor Featherston and former Oriole David Lough for a quick frame.
Gallardo threw 35 pitches (19 strikes). He was scheduled to throw 35-40 pitches.
"Obviously, if the results are there it's a good thing, but the most important thing is building up to that 100-pitch count," Gallardo said. "The first inning, I thought there were some pretty good pitches down in the zone, but they were able to put good swings on it. The first pitch of the game, there's not much you can do about that. Obviously, if it's a little bit down in the zone it's a different story. But first time out there, first pitch of the game, there's not much I can do.
"The second double, I got to two strikes right away and I just missed. I missed with the pitch we had planned. I tried to throw it up and in, and it ended up going right to his barrel. But the positive part was I was able to get two innings and get those two ground balls in that second inning, which is a good sign. They hit some balls down in the zone and [were] hitting those ground balls."
Even though Gallardo arrived in camp a week late, Showalter said he doesn't think he's behind the other pitchers. Gallardo came into camp having already thrown four bullpen sessions.
Showalter would like to get Gallardo five or six innings deep by the end of spring.
"But the opposition has to cooperate down here and he can always make that up somewhere, especially if you need to put him in a controlled environment," Showalter said. "But he's not behind. Obviously, starting a little later, his margin for error with setbacks and stuff, you don't want to see.
"He's intense, but [calm]. He's been impressive. He's been engaged. He might not come across that way [with his] body language from a distance, but he listened and he's been engaged in what's going on. He wants to know. How are we doing this? What's expected? He's a pleaser, too. He likes where he is and he knows we stepped out on him."