BALTIMORE—Keegan Akin began spring training with an inside track at the Orioles’ starting rotation. However, a 10.00 ERA in spring training and a rough final start in which he allowed six runs on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings against Pittsburgh made the Orioles decide to option the 26-year-old left-hander to minor league camp.
“We had some good talks about things that I needed to work on,” Akin said. “It was kind of a mutual agreement where they asked me first, and said, not really, I need to work on some things. I went down to the alt site, got some work in and got back on track. Good stuff came from going down there, and I’m glad to be back.”
Akin might have started on April 24th if he hadn’t cut his left index finger in a kitchen accident.
“I was actually washing a knife,” Akin said. “It happened to be a very sharp knife. It had something stuck on it, and I started scrubbing a little harder, and the scrub brushes gave out, and it slipped and it got me on my left finger, a freak accident, obviously not the right time of the year to happen, done it many times, but not that bad where I had to go get stitches.”
As a result, Wade LeBlanc started and was let go after the game, a 7-2 loss to Oakland. Instead of Akin being called up, it was another left-hander, Zac Lowther.
Lowther pitched once in the bullpen, and was called up to start on May 8th. After he allowed seven runs against Boston, he was sent down on Monday, and Akin was recalled.
“It sucked,” Akin said about his accident. “It wasn’t fun. I honestly laughed about it. When I made the phone call to [minor league medical coordinator] Dave Walker to let him know, I was kind of laughing. Listen, I’m probably going to have to go to urgent care and get some stitches. It’s not looking good. I was in disbelief. It happened so fast. I looked down and said, that may need stitches. I laughed it off pretty well, but it was disappointing.”
For now, Akin is in the bullpen, but the Orioles will need a fifth starter next weekend against Washington. Unless Bruce Zimmermann is recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, it could be Akin.
Manager Brandon Hyde was pleased to see Akin pitch a clean sixth inning on Wednesday against the New York Mets. He began it by buzzing three pitches past Mets starter Taijuan Walker, who didn’t lift the bat off his shoulder.
“It was his first appearance,” Hyde said. “I wanted to get him where he started an inning. He was starting down [in Norfolk] and used to opening an inning. I thought he threw the ball great.
“I like the way he threw strikes with his fastball and worked ahead in the count. It was a good inning for him.”
Akin, who was 1-2 with a 4.56 ERA in eight appearances, six starts last season with the Orioles, was happy with the outing.
“It was good to get on a good start,” he said. “One inning, I got to face the pitcher. Take it how you want it. It was definitely good to get on the right track and pound the zone and throw strikes.”
Hyde said that Akin listened to what the Orioles told him to do when he was sent down.
“There were things he needed to work on from a command standpoint,” Hyde said. “All of his pitches, get his velo up on his fastball. He went in and out with his command during spring training.
“He felt like he didn’t have a very good spring, that he wasn’t locating pitches and commanding any of his stuff the way he wanted to. He knew from his experience in the big leagues how important that was, and he didn’t do that this spring. He agreed with us that some time in Triple-A to get his command back was going to be important.”
Akin hasn’t lost confidence.
“There’s always going to be bumps in the road,” he said. “You’re competing at the highest level of baseball that there is. In my mind, it was a little step backwards. I needed to work on some things and get my mind right and get some things right physically. For me, it was a little bump in the road. I got my confidence back after being down there being at the alt side and throwing a little bit at Norfolk. To me, it was back on track, but a little bump in the road.”
Santander’s schedule: Anthony Santander is batting second and playing right field Friday in his first game with Double-A Bowie in his rehab assignment. He’s on the 10-day injured list because of a sprained left ankle.
He’ll play some games for the Baysox and go through Covid-19 protocols. Hyde thinks he could return to the Orioles in about a week.