BALTIMORE—Entering this season, Asher Wojciechowski stood out primarily because of the length of his last name. Wojciechowski was signed by the Orioles as a minor league free agent for spring training in 2018.
Wojciechowski was an early cut, and went to Triple-A Norfolk. He pitched creditably for the Tides, going 5-4 with a 3.91 ERA. But with no opportunity even on the flailing Orioles last season, he opted out of his contract in mid-July.
In a career that began in 2010 when he was the 41st overall pick by the Toronto Blue Jays, Wojciechowski has had a tough time finding a big league home, until he was abruptly picked by the Orioles from the Cleveland Indians on July 1 and inserted into the starting rotation.
The 30-year-old has been with eight organizations, and he’s finally getting a full opportunity to start.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Wojciechowski said. “Because I know the amount of work that I’ve put in each and every year and every offseason. I feel like I’ve been prepared for this.”
Entering this season, he had only 11 major league starts, three with Houston in 2015 and eight with Cincinnati two years ago. On Thursday, Wojciechowski will make his 10th start against Tampa Bay.
“I’ve had opportunities in the past that didn’t go so well,” Wojciechowski said. “I know how few and far between these opportunities come, so I don’t take it for granted. I come to work every day trying to prepare myself the best way I can for my next outing,”
His numbers haven’t been terrific overall, (2-6, 4.78), but there have been wonderful moments. On July 21, Wojciechowski took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox.
In his next start, on July 26, after the 16-inning game that featured Stevie Wilkerson’s save, Wojciechowski pitched seven strong innings in a 9-3 win.
Last year, after leaving the Orioles, he signed with the Chicago White Sox but had a 7.01 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Charlotte.
He signed another minor league deal, this time with Cleveland, and was pitching well for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers (8-2, 3.61) when he found his way to St. Petersburg, Florida to meet the Orioles.
“I was putting up good numbers in Columbus,” Wojciechowski said. “I was hoping to get an opportunity with Cleveland, a playoff-bound team. It didn’t happen that way. The need was for me here.”
Wojciechowski’s first big league experience was with the Astros when they were beginning their playoff run in 2015. Since general manager Mike Elias and his assistant Sig Mejdal were with Houston then, many make the comparison between what the Astros built and how the Orioles are trying to follow that pattern.
“When I was with the Astros, I was a prospect coming up through the system,” Wojciechowski said. “I wasn’t really in the big leagues yet.
“…We’re starting from Ground Zero. We’re a very young team. We’re on the way to getting implemented with the analytics and the system the Astros fan and what Mike has brought over here, but we’re not there, yet.”
Wojciechowski spent much of the past seven seasons at Triple-A.
“There’s always times of self-doubt and discouragement when you’re in Triple-A when you have a bad game,” Wojciechowski said. “You don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. You can’t focus on things like that.
“You have to keep grinding and keep believing in yourself and have a good support group around you and be resilient.”
He knows if he pitches well in his final six or seven starts, he might come into spring training next season with the Orioles as a contender for the rotation.
“Anytime you feel like you might have a future, especially a guy like me where every year for the last four years has been different,” Wojciechowski said.
“That’s what I’m pitching for. I’m pitching to solidify myself as a big leaguer here, to solidify myself in the rotation here, to be a part of this organization and turn things around.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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