FREDERICK, Md.—Blaine Knight’s second start for the Frederick Keys was nothing to be embarrassed about. It just wasn’t as sharp as his first.
Knight, a 23-year-old right-hander, who was the Orioles’ third-round draft choice from the University of Arkansas in 2018, had a superb debut for the Keys a week ago. He allowed a run on two hits in six innings, striking out five and walking one.
On Friday night, Knight worked five-plus innings and got no decision. He allowed four runs, one unearned, on five hits. He walked three and struck out four.
“I thought he pitched better than his line was,” Frederick manager Ryan Minor said.
Knight had a rough first inning when two runs scored. He allowed hits to three of the first four Red Sox hitters while the other reached on an error by third baseman Jomar Reyes.
“I think they ambushed him early,” Minor said. “The first three or four guys swung at his first pitch. His breaking ball was working, his changeup was working towards the middle of his outing. It probably wasn’t a great start for him in his eyes, [but] he gave us what he had.”
Two runs scored, but Knight pitched well after that. He allowed just two hits, and at one point retired 10 of 11.
“I thought it was OK,” Knight said. “ I was really battling with a lot of stuff. Couldn’t get my body synched up. I had innings I was really on, and I had innings I had to just battle. You’re not going to have your best stuff every time you go out so you’re always going to be battling something. Just got to go out and limit damage and keep your team in the game. I did that, so I’m not too upset about it.”
It was just the 11th professional outing for Knight, who started four times for Short Season Aberdeen last year. He was outstanding in five starts for Low-A Delmarva, where he was named the Orioles’ organization’s Pitcher of the Month for April.
Knight was 3-0 with an 0.68 ERA. He allowed just 11 hits in 26 2/3 innings. He struck out 33 and walked just four.
“I wasn’t really surprised by it,” Knight said. “All of us work for stats like that. I knew if I went out and executed my stuff and did what I was supposed to do, the stats would take care of themselves.
Keys pitching coach Justin Lord is impressed by Knight.
“He encompasses what a pitcher is,” Lord said. “He knows how to change speeds. He knows how to command the baseball. He’s got some grit and some fight in him that you like to see, and that’s what he displayed in Delmarva from everything I’ve heard.
“That’s what I saw from him in the first outing he had here. He gave up a home run in the first inning, and then kind of beared down a little bit and made pitches each hitter, each inning … He knows how to pitch, and that’s a quality you like to see in a young guy.”
Knight thinks pitching in the Southeastern Conference prepared him for the Carolina League
“The hitters are definitely better,” Knight said. “This reminds me more of college … The hitters have a little better approach. They’re a little more aggressive. More mistakes get hit. Nothing big. I’ve done it for three years in college, and I have to get used to facing those kinds of hitters again. Then, I’ll be all right.”
Knight has walked four batters in 11 innings for Frederick. That’s as many as he walked in 26 2/3 innings in the South Atlantic League.
“Their pitch selection is better,” Knight said. “They give you a lot of swings in the Sally league that you won’t get here. They don’t chase a lot. I try to keep them off the plate. I try to keep them from squaring everything up. Hats off to those guys. They made me work for it. “
Knight is pleased that he’s with Baltimore.
“There’s a lot of opportunity up and down the organization right now for a lot of guys with the rebuild that’s going on,” Knight said. “I think if you play well, they’re going to move guys. I’m just going to try and keep playing well, and whatever happens, happens.
“Every day I get to pitch, that’s innings behind me, and hopefully they’re good innings that’s propelling me towards that end point, which is the big leagues. I’m going to continue to do what I did tonight. If I don’t have my best stuff, at least keep my team in it, keep them close where they have a chance to win, and capitalize on the good nights and keep inching towards Baltimore.”