We know Dan Duquette, the Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations, often abandons convention in adding player inventory to the organization.
We know he is a fan of foreign players, obscure leagues, Boston/New England connections and unorthodox pitchers.
Well, he hit for the Duquette Superfecta with one move Thursday.
The Orioles announced the signings of four minor-league players: Infielders Garabez Rosa and Sean Coyle, outfielder Chris Dickerson and — wait for it — 40-year-old right-hander Tomo Ohka, who has re-invented himself as a knuckleballer.
It’s the most Duquettian move of all Duquettian moves. A Japanese knuckleballer with Red Sox ties who last pitched for a Japanese independent league.
“(Ohka is a) veteran pitcher with excellent control worth considering for the O’s,” Duquette said via text.
Rosa and Dickerson were in the Orioles’ minor-league system last year and Coyle is a former Red Sox third-rounder.
Well, he had a 2.82 ERA in 16 games with the Fukushima Hopes of the Baseball Challenge League, basically a semi-pro league in Japan.
Yes, this stuff writes itself.
Duquette has signed Ohka before. When Duquette ran the Red Sox and Ohka left Japan for the big leagues – in November, 1998.
Current Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was 6 at the time. Seriously.
Ohka hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2009 with the Cleveland Indians. As a knuckleballer, he went to spring training with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014, didn’t make the club and ended up pitching for Bridgeport of the Atlantic League, his last year in the States. This November, he threw in front of major league scouts in Arizona; the Orioles were one of the teams present.
Ohka spent 10 seasons in the majors after Duquette gave him his first MLB deal. He’s been around so long he was a Montreal Expo – for four seasons. He was also an original Washington National, briefly anyway. He pitched 10 games for the Nationals in 2005, until he turned his back on manager Frank Robinson during a pitching change. He was promptly dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers.
In his big-league career, Ohka is 51-68 with a 4.26 ERA in 202 games (178 starts). He walked just 302 batters and struck out 590.
Remember, this is a minor-league deal. No risk, no consequences. It’s a quintessential Duquette transaction, one that might be his biggest longshot of all. And that’s saying something.