Over the winter, the Orioles signed one major league free-agent pitcher, Kohl Stewart, a move that could pay off handsomely if he fulfills his potential.
Stewart was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Minnesota Twins and was unable to find a spot with them. He was granted free agency last November and signed a split contract with the Orioles that will pay him a prorated portion of $800,000 if he plays in the majors.
In his previous two seasons with the Twins, Stewart pitched in 17 games, six of them starts, and went 4-3 with a 4.79 ERA.
Stewart will start Tuesday night against the Nationals at Nationals Park. It will be his second exhibition start of 2020. In his first, Stewart allowed three runs on five hits on March 8 against the New York Yankees. He had missed the early part of spring training because of a sore biceps.
“We got such a limited look at him in spring training,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We love the arm. We just didn’t see him pitch much in spring training 1.0. He’s throwing the ball better. He’s been healthy through this summer camp.
“We’re continuing to watch. It’s an arm that we really like. I like the shape to his pitches. He’s got major league starter stuff, so it’s about going out there and being able to pound the strike zone with it, be able to work at it with hitters, especially in this division.”
Stewart has a good shot to make the Orioles, as a starter or reliever.
“I’m still trying to show them something,” he said in a video conference call on Monday.
Stewart isn’t assuming anything.
“I have really no idea what their role is for me. They want me to be a guy who can go five innings. Every time I go out there, I feel like I have something to prove,” he said.
Had the season begun in March, his place on the roster would have been uncertain, but Stewart thinks he’s caught up.
“It is different,” Stewart said of the current short training period.
“Just because it’s spring, we all get so used to that. We all get so used to having six to eight weeks to really be able to face hitters and at least be able to use that intel that we gather to at least prepare for what the beginning of the season is going to be like and not having that is very different for everybody.
“I do feel like I could go out there and pitch and throw five or six innings. I trust that my body is going to hold up for 60 games. It is different. I’m not going to lie.”
Stewart said summer training has been different.
“It’s just an adjustment,” he said. “Everybody’s in that boat. Everybody’s going to have to make it. The guys that listen to their bodies the best, those guys are going to be the best prepared. It is very different. I don’t want it to sound as if it’s the same because it’s not. Everybody is definitely feeling very different than they would if opening day was April 3.”
Stewart had some time to work with the coaches in spring training.
“Luckily, we had spring so I kind of knew some of the things they worked on with me,” Stewart said. “Going out and doing it in games is kind of different, and that’s kind of where I’m at. I need to kind of hone those things in, and that’s what I’m in the process of working on.
“Start to start, it’s going to obviously be pitch usage and maybe using my pitches in a little bit different way than I have in the past.
“If I can do those things, if I can apply them in the way I think they all want me to, I can have success, we’re going to get the results that we want, but that’s a process that happens over time. I think the more starts that I get, the more innings I get, the more feedback that I can get from hitters, the better that plan is going to come into scope, and I think I’ll be able to execute a little better each time out.”