BALTIMORE—After the Orioles sent Jimmy Yacabonis to Triple-A Norfolk this spring, they decided that Yacabonis could be better as a starter than he was in the bullpen.
At the time, the Orioles had a roster full of bullpen pieces and few starting options below the major leagues.
Yacabonis had two relief appearances for the Orioles and made his third start on Saturday. In his last two, he’s been the 26th man, called up to start the first game of a doubleheader.
He had a nice beginning, allowing just one hit in four innings, but home runs by Eduardo Nunez and Jackie Bradley Jr. did him in.
Yacabonis left after 4 1/3 in a game the Orioles lost, 5-0.
“Just a couple of pitches,” Yacabonis said. “I execute them a little bit better then I probably put a zero up that inning, At least got it to the fifth. The first four were good.”
Yacabonis is 3-4 with a 4.23 ERA in 18 starts for the Tides.
Manager Buck Showalter thought he could get five innings or 75 pitches out of Yacabonis on Saturday.
“His first four as good as you want to see,” Showalter said. “But stuff like that gets punctuated when you’re not scoring any runs. But it’s impressive. He came out and attacked them. You have to do that, and that’s what he did. Kind of ambushed them there. But the long ball got him a couple times.”
The Orioles have openings in the rotation now that Kevin Gausman has been traded, and the bullpen is wide open.
With Yacabonis starting for the first time since college, he’s found he likes it.
“Definitely developing my secondary pitches just from getting the reps, just from having that extra day to throw bullpens and work on stuff,” Yacabonis said.
“Definitely feel like I’m progressing to the point where I can read hitters better. I can definitely see what guys are looking for after throwing them a pitch. The first pitch of an at-bat, I definitely know what a guy’s approach is.”
Yacabonis has been developing stamina.
“I’ve never been up to this high, this many innings in my career before. Last year, I had like 70 in Norfolk and 20 up here, so I finished with 90, plus spring training, too … I feel like I’m getting used to that, and my body getting used to that is going to help me keep those ticks in that fastball once I get to the fifth, sixth inning.”
Showalter has heard from Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and pitching coach Mike Griffin that Yacabonis is progressing, even if it’s not obvious statistically.
“He’s done things like hold runners better, he’s working on his off-speed pitch,” Showalter said. “You get a good arm like that not a lot of wear and tear on it, you like to see first of all if the guy can start. And he’s made a lot of progress. I’m proud of him.
Can Yacabonis be part of a major league rotation?
“That’s the next step,” Showalter said. “We try to keep in mind his body of work and try not to go from zero to 100 right out of the chute. They’ve done a good job with him. The next step is being able to maintain your stuff over a longer haul … you could tell he was tiring there a little bit. I want to keep his confidence level and also feel good about a needed outing we needed from him today.”