David Hess has shown no fear in his first three big league starts for the Orioles, even while pitching in Fenway Park against a stacked Red Sox lineup.
So, don’t expect the rookie right-hander to be starstruck in the first inning tonight when Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper steps into the batter’s box.
Hess, the Orioles’ fifth-round pick out of Tennessee Tech in 2014, says the experience is “gonna be fun.”
“It’s gonna be pretty cool to see (Harper) walk up to the plate and get a chance to compete against him,” Hess said. “I know he is going to be ready to go, so I’ve got to match that intensity on the mound and it will be a lot of fun. Looking forward to it.”
One thing Hess promises, there will be no tiptoeing around Harper, no nibbling so he doesn’t get burned.
“He’s a great hitter. But, at the end of the day, I still want to go hard at him. I still want to attack him the saw way I do anybody else,” Hess said. “Because the more timid you tend to be, that’s when you run into trouble. So, even though he is that big-named guy for their team and one of the best guys in the league, I still want to go right at him and do everything I can to get him out.”
In his first three starts, Hess has allowed 18 hits in 17 1/3 innings while walking five and fanning 10. He said he felt like the one time he didn’t attack the hitters was in Boston, when he allowed eight hits – including three homers — in 4 2/3 innings. The 24-year-old believes he learned a lesson from that one, a 5-0 loss in which the Orioles were shut out by lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, a former Orioles farmhand.
Hess will pitch against a guy with a little more notoriety tonight – Washington right-hander and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.
Scherzer has as many Cy Young Awards as Hess has big league starts.
Hess has a sense of humor, though, too.
“Yeah, I don’t know who that Scherzer guy is,” said Hess, cracking a faint smile. “Apparently, he is pretty good, or something like that.”
Hess then laughed, and gushed appropriately about Scherzer.
“Right now, our time, (Scherzer is) one of the great pitchers we have and, maybe, to ever pitch,” Hess said. “So, to get to square off against him is going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a challenge for the team, but I think we have everything we need to be successful and have a chance to win.”
Ah, the optimism of a rookie.
But, understand, Hess isn’t just pitching for the Orioles, trying to snap a four-game losing streak and help his club avoid a sweep at home against a regional rival.
He’s also pitching for his friends and family back in Tennessee, who are all Atlanta Braves fans.
“I think a lot of people back home, and that I’ve been around growing up, are really excited. I grew up with a lot of Braves fans, so I know that they’re cheering for a win against the Nationals to kind of help them out,” he said. “I think they are excited about it just as much as I am.”