Darren O’Day, who was an integral part of an exceptional Orioles bullpen, announced his retirement on Monday.
When the Orioles claimed O’Day, who is 40, off waivers from the Texas Rangers in November 2011, the transaction hardly made news. The Orioles were between general managers after Andy MacPhail’s resignation and before Dan Duquette’s hiring. Manager Buck Showalter had recommended that the Orioles claim O’Day.
He barely made the club in 2012. At the last minute, the Orioles decided to keep the sidearming right-hander instead of Zach Phillips, a left-hander who pitched 16 games for the Orioles in 2011 and 2012.
O’Day pitched many more. His 391 appearances for the Orioles are the sixth most in club history, trailing only Jim Palmer, Tippy Martinez, Mike Flanagan, Dave McNally and B.J. Ryan.
Although he pitched for the Rangers, Angels and Mets before he pitched for the Orioles, and the Braves and Yankees after he left, he’ll be remembered for his steady hand in the Orioles’ bullpen.
O’Day was a setup man and rarely closed. He had only 19 saves for the Orioles, but that’s because they had superb closers — Jim Johnson in O’Day’s first two seasons, and Zack Britton in his final five.
O’Day’s statistics with the Orioles were sparkling — a 28-14 record with 2.40 ERA and a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 0.994. O’Day allowed just 6.5 hits per nine innings and struck out 10.2 while walking 2.5.
It’s been a wild ride that I never thought I’d get to experience, but it’s finally time to hang ‘em up. pic.twitter.com/CewsXhgBYz
— Darren O'Day (@DODay56) January 30, 2023
His best seasons came in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, when the Orioles won the American League East, O’Day was 5-2 with a 1.70 ERA. He followed that with a 6-2 record and 1.52 ERA and an All-Star berth.
After the 2015 season, O’Day signed a four-year, $31 million contract. Injuries caught up to him, and he wasn’t as effective. Fortunately for the Orioles, Britton had his remarkable 2016 season — 47 saves and a 0.54 ERA — and Brad Brach provided terrific setup work to earn an All-Star bid of his own.
By 2018, the team was being dismantled and the Orioles wanted to get rid of O’Day’s $9 million salary for 2019. He and starting pitcher Kevin Gausman were traded to the Braves. In return, the Orioles received catcher Brett Cumberland, infielder J.C. Encarnacion and pitchers Evan Phillips and Bruce Zimmermann. Atlanta also sent international bonus slot money that the Orioles were unable to use.
O’Day appeared in only 67 games after the Orioles traded him.
He did show some flashes, posting a 1.69 ERA in eight appearances in late 2019 and a 4-0 record and 1.10 ERA in 19 games in the 60-game pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
After two more seasons shortened by injury with the Yankees and Braves, O’Day will move on to the next part of his life.
Oriole fans serenaded him with chants of “O’Day, O’Day, O”Day,” but as a setup man, he never had the acclaim that Britton did for his 47 saves in 47 attempts in 2016.
Still, he was vital to the Orioles’ success. Along with Britton, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters — and possibly Johnson and Chris Tillman — O’Day should earn a place in the Orioles’ Hall of Fame.
Of that bunch, Machado and Britton, who hasn’t chosen his 2023 team, are the only ones still active. J.J. Hardy, who retired after the 2017 season, entered the team’s Hall of Fame in 2021.
Minor differences: The Athletic’s Keith Law released his Top 100 prospects on Monday, and he has six Orioles on the list.
Infielder Gunnar Henderson is ranked second, starter Grayson Rodriguez is 16th, shortstop Jackson Holliday is 19th, infielder Jordan Westburg is 73rd, left-hander DL Hall his 84th, and shortstop Joey Ortiz is 94th.
Last week, MLB Pipeline released its list of top 100 prospects, and there were eight Orioles — Henderson (1st), Rodriguez (7), Holliday (12), outfielder Colton Cowser (40), Westburg (74), outfielder Heston Kjerstad (80), Hall (97) and Ortiz (99).
Earlier this month, Baseball America also named Henderson first, and had Rodriguez (6), Holliday (15), Cowser (41), Hall (75), Westburg (76), infielder Connor Norby (93) and Ortiz (95).
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB