Orioles lefty Jayson Aquino didn’t do anything particularly special on Saturday night at Camden Yards.
Except his final line was as good as one could ask for a pitcher’s first big league start.
He picked up a quality start – six innings, two earned runs and his first major league win. His only real mistake was a two-run homer to Jackie Bradley Jr., in the third inning.
“I think you saw some of the things that we liked about him (in the spring). He doesn’t lack for … I don’t want to say ‘confidence.’ (But) he’s one of those guys who says, ‘Here’s mine and see what you can do with it. I’m not going to pick around,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I wish I could come up with a better phrase, but there’s just a personality to his pitching.”
I’ll stick with the confidence word. Aquino doesn’t throw hard, mainly high 80s with his fastball. But he mixed it with his changeup – which he says is his best pitch – and a slider. And you could tell he wasn’t intimidated pitching against a good Boston Red Sox lineup, despite this being his fourth major league appearance and first start.
“I feel very happy,” he said through interpreter Ramon Alarcon. “It’s an incredible feeling what I’m feeling right now. I just tried to make my pitches. I was just following the lead of my catcher. Thank God everything went well.”
It’s been a pretty crazy ride for Aquino, whom the Orioles received from the St. Louis Cardinals for cash considerations last April. This is his sixth organization since the Colorado Rockies signed him as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic.
He was in Double-A this time last year. And now has beaten the Red Sox.
“It’s been a tough process. I’ve been through a few organizations,” he said. “But I’m just thankful to the Orioles for this opportunity and allowing me to start a game at the major league level.”
The question now is when does he get his next one. He earned another opportunity, for sure. But so did Alec Asher last Saturday. The Orioles won’t need a fifth starter until May 2. That could be Chris Tillman, who is probably within two weeks or so of returning from injury and reclaiming a rotation spot.
Just as coolly as Aquino handled the Red Sox, he handled that question about his immediate future.
“I really can’t control the decisions that they make above me. I just try to concentrate on doing my job,” he said. “Whenever (Tillman) is ready to come up, and whatever decision they make on myself, I just try to do my work.”
That’s the right answer.
And even if Aquino goes back to Triple-A Norfolk now, the Orioles know they have a lefty who can handle himself in the majors if needed.
That’s a big weapon to have as a long season progresses.