HARRISBURG, PA. — Finally, it was back to baseball.
The trades that brought them to the Orioles organization, and the moves that came with them, are through. So is Friday’s unveiling at Camden Yards, where they were paraded before cameras and fans as the team’s collective future.
Sunday in Harrisburg, new Orioles pitching prospects Dillon Tate and Dean Kremer, acquired in this month’s trades for Zach Britton and Manny Machado, each started half of Double-A Bowie’s doubleheader and began what’s going to be the hard part — making good on all those expectations.
Tate, pitching in a game for the first time since July 5, allowed five runs (four earned) in 5 1/3 innings in his Baysox debut, while Kremer appeared to be on track to replicating his impressive Bowie debut from last weekend before he ran into trouble in the fifth and finished with three runs on his account in five innings.
Each showed all of the promise that made them such prominent pieces in the trades that mark the beginning of the Orioles’ transition, all while showing that, just like for the major league club, they can’t deliver on it overnight — and aren’t expected to.
“We’ve had conversations with all the guys who have come over, that obviously you need to be excited and it’s a great opportunity to be here because you got traded,” Bowie pitching coach Kennie Steenstra said. “It means that we like you and the organization likes you, but all of these guys have played a little while. They have a pretty good self-grasp of what kind of guys they are and what’s gotten them to this point so far. ... I don’t think any of them have tremendously put a big expectation on themselves.”
Tate would be used to it if there were. At the time of the trade, he was the New York Yankees’ sixth-rated prospect in Baseball America’s midseason prospect list, and the Texas Rangers took him fourth overall in 2015.
He got off to a rough start in the first inning as he left too many pitches over the plate. Three hits and an error later, he was trailing 2-0. Tate, 24, rebounded to strike out the side in the second but was punished for a leadoff walk in a two-run third. Harrisburg tacked on a fifth run off Tate in the sixth inning in an eventual 5-4 win.
He was as-advertised in terms of his arsenal, with his fastball 92-94 mph and the makings of an effective slider and changeup, each in the low to mid-80s. But when Tate met with the media at Camden Yards on Friday, he said consistency was the difference between minor leaguers and big leaguers. It’s clear that finding that will be key to Tate delivering on his mid-rotation ceiling and tapping into his fullest potential without settling for a lesser role.
Steenstra said he showed “the makings of three really quality pitches,” and Tate said repeating those is key. The good news is he knows what it feels like when he’s on: “like I’m getting out behind it.”
“Sometimes, I don’t quite get there,” Tate said. “If you don’t finish the pitch, it’s not going to quite have the shape that I intend to have on it. I was talking to the pitching coach a little bit about the situations involved, and just having to finish some of my pitches. I’ll work on that going forward.”
More than anything, he’s glad to just have the chance to pitch again. He spent two weeks on the disabled list with a quadriceps injury before his trade and hadn’t pitched in nearly three weeks before Sunday. Now that he’s settled, it’s back to normal.
“Any time you’re back out on the field, working on your craft, that’s definitely my comfort zone,” Tate said. “I definitely felt back in a groove a little bit there, and I’m just looking to build on some of the good things that I did today and just improve from there.”
Kremer had already gotten to that stage after the trade that took him from the Los Angeles Dodgers, although the smile-and-wave at Camden Yards was a bit of a divergence from that. He allowed one earned run in six innings in his debut last Sunday, and showed why he broke out in the Dodgers system. The four-seam/curveball approach that he developed this year was incredibly effective, with his fastball sitting 91-93 mph and his curveball a weapon in any count to both lefties and righties.
He struck out four and scattered three hits while using just 55 pitches in four innings before things got away from him in the fifth inning.
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Kremer walked the leadoff man on six pitches, then seemed to get frustrated when he spun a beauty of a curveball on the outside corner that went for ball one to the next batter, who also walked. He went down 3-0 to Khayyan Norfork, then allowed a three-run home run to tie the game. He got it back together to finish the inning, and even threw some of his best changeups of the night once he did, but he needed 30 pitches and was done for the day once he walked back into the dugout.
Steenstra was more focused on the innings that preceded the fifth. In those, Kremer showed an advanced four-pitch mix and an innate ability of how to use them.
“There’s lots of good things to see from him today,” Steenstra said. “The first four innings, he was carving some guys up. He had a good 3-2 slider to get the strikeout the inning before. He’s shown us in both starts he’s got some quality to him.”