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SARASOTA—For the first time in his five seasons as Orioles executive vice president/general manager, Mike Elias has reacquired a player, and 2 1/2 years after he last wore an Orioles jersey, Mychal Givens is back.
Givens was traded to the Colorado Rockies on August 30th, 2020 for infielders Tyler Nevin and Terrin Vavra and minor league outfielder Mishael Deson.
Since then, Givens has played for the Rockies, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs and New York Mets before signing a $3 million contract with either a $2 million buyout or a $6 million mutual option for 2024 with the Orioles last December.
“Just another day in the office, basically,” Givens said. “Just trying to use my knowledge of the game to help guys like I’ve been doing the last few years.”
Givens, who was the baby of a stacked Orioles bullpen that included All-Stars Brad Brach, Zack Britton and Darren O’Day from 2015-2018, became the veteran after they were traded in July 2018, and after suffering through two 100-plus loss seasons in 2018 and 2019, was traded before he could experience another in 2021.
“Two different teams, but when the new front office came in 2019, it was all clean house and rebuilding. I didn’t really get the best side of it,” Givens said. “Now coming back, seeing what they’ve done is pretty good, to see the young talent.”
At 32, Givens is by far the oldest pitcher in the bullpen, and the second oldest player on the team behind only starting pitcher Kyle Gibson. He saw the Orioles debuts of Austin Hays, John Means, Ryan Mountcastle and Cedric Mullins in his last go-round.
“It’s great to see them and see what they’ve done since I’ve left,” Givens said.
He often thinks about his days with the old Orioles bullpens, which also included Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz, but the biggest highlight for Givens was watching Britton’s 47 saves in 47 chances in 2016.
“It’s always been a very great honor, and I got to see Zack in 2016, one of the best pitchers in baseball, a front-row seat to that,” Givens said. “It was just an elite bullpen and back then. It was a really strong bullpen and we won a lot of games with our bullpen.”
Givens was with the Cubs when they played the Orioles last summer and liked what he saw out of the bullpen.
“Seeing what they did with their bullpen last year, it’s a great honor to be back,” Givens said.
Manager Brandon Hyde said he doesn’t notice many differences between the Givens of 2019 and 2020 and this year’s version.
“I think Mike’s pretty much the same guy,” Hyde said. “He’s just got a couple more years of experience. He’s bringing some veteran experience to our bullpen. His stuff looks similar to what we saw before. His numbers with the Cubs were really good last year.
“It’s going to be that kind of unusual arm slot, really tough on right-handed hitters. His velocity is about where it is normally in spring training. I think he’s right on track.”
When Givens was traded by the Cubs to the Mets last August, he was reunited with Buck Showalter, the manager who watched his transformation from a light-hitting infielder to an excellent middle reliever.
“It was a good feeling. I had Buck when I was young, learning the ropes,” Givens said. “Got to be a veteran in front of him, it was great. He was one of the smartest managers I ever played for and he knows this game frontwards and backwards. It was great, and he has a great ball team in front of him for a great manager to manage.”
Givens got to pitch behind one of the best pitchers in our time, Max Scherzer, a future Hall of Famer, perhaps the best starter he’s seen.
“That was the most impressive thing to be around a guy like him,” Givens said. “He’s very knowledgeable of what he has as a plan, how he prepares for the games. You hear: ‘Mad Max,’ but at the same time, when he’s not on his start date, he’s a freaking funny guy to be around and a great guy to pick his brain about what he’s done in his career and what he can teach you.”
Givens has yet to play in a regular season game with catcher Adley Rutschman but saw him as a major leaguer in the Orioles-Cubs games in 2022.
“It’s been good so far. I got to throw with him in 2020 [in summer camp].” Givens said. “Got to congratulate him and tell him to keep doing what he’s doing. He’s up here to stay.
“You can’t tell from just a few games last year, the games he played last year. You don’t know what he’s going to become. I think he’s going to become even better than what you see now.”
Givens doesn’t necessarily see himself in any of the young Orioles relievers.
“When I came up, I had a whole veteran bullpen,” Givens said. “I had to learn how to build really quick. Right now, I think everybody has their own unique style, and just trying to give them the opportunity to be consistent and try to stick in the big leagues.”
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