Although some would label the current state of the Orioles organization weak or thin, there are plenty of prospects throughout the system worthy of attention. This year, we'll spotlight players via interview — notable prospects and underrated youngsters — who have the potential to contribute to the big-league club in the coming years.
Parker Bridwell is one of those prospects, ranked 15th in the organization by MLB.com. Currently at AAA Norfolk, Bridwell worked his first three Major League innings with the Orioles last summer. He's expected to make his way up to Baltimore soon, but for now the grind continues in minor-league life.
For Bridwell, living that life has its ups and downs.
On one hand, he's living the dream that many have from early days on the tee ball field. On the other, the baseball season is one filled with difficult situations and plenty of time-consuming work. Bridwell understands both sides of the coin.
“Honestly, my mentality about it is, 'I'm the luckiest guy on earth’,” he said. “I get to wake up and pitch every day and basically go play the game that I've loved playing for my whole life every day, and I get paid now to do it. So, I wake up and have a positive attitude about everything because it's kind of hard to have a negative attitude when you're playing a game for a living. If you wake up and have the right mindset about playing baseball, more things are going to work out for you than not. At least that's what I believe and that's how I go about it.”
Throughout his minor-league career, one that began in 2010 as a ninth-round draft pick, Bridwell's struggles have centered around periodic command issues. As a starter throughout his first several seasons wth the Orioles, he did miss bats when he found the zone. However, locating and keeping walk numbers down was the trouble area.
Bridwell’s assignment to the bullpen last season ultimately led to favorable results that carried him into the offseason with the official reliever tag. And with the help of a familiar name this spring, the right-hander says he has found improvements aplenty.
Orioles pitching coach Roger McDowell spent a good amount of time with Bridwell in Sarasota as the two worked together to find further solutions to cut down on free passes.
According to the 6’4” Texas native, the journey to improving pinpoint command is cruising steadily.
“It's taken me over five years to get it down, and it'll take me more to perfect it,” Bridwell noted of his command. “It's just one of those things. Once you see yourself progressing, you just want more. That's the way it is. It's been hard... Roger McDowell being at camp and working with him for the first time was awesome. He changed a couple of things in my mechanics, and it's actually made my command a lot better. So, I'm excited about potentially being able to work with him more in the future.”
He continued to rave about McDowell and the work he put in over the offseason, noting he’s already seen improvements in the young season.
“I’m excited to see the results of what we we've been working on in spring training and moving forward. I've had an outing already, and my command was better than I've ever seen it during this point in the season. So, I'm excited to see where that goes and obviously my goals are to get back in the big leagues in stay there, but everybody can say that. I have to put my work into play and be consistent and see if I can't get myself there.”
Perhaps Bridwell's most important asset is his ability to mix pitches. Since transitioning into a full-time reliever, he's carried over all four pitches (FB, SL, CB, CH) into the bullpen. In a world of increasing reliever specialization, Bridwell's value is most certainly unique and worth while.
When asked about the advantage of carrying four pitches every time he takes the mound, the 25-year-old emphasized his pride in owning a diverse arsenal and being able to break out each offering in any given count.
“It's very important,” he said of owning multiple plus pitches. “If you have two pitches that you can command in any given count, it makes it a lot easier on you. The more pitches the better... if I can throw them in the zone when I want to in certain counts, it's all going to work out better for me.
“If I have four pitches, I might not have one that day but that's still a three-pitch arsenal out of the 'pen which, some people only have two... After being a starter, it just kind of worked in my favor to have those pitches.”
On the topic of development, Bridwell was more than willing to talk about the job the Orioles have done with the pitching talent in the organization during his time with Baltimore. Despite the outside noise, he maintains that confidence is high within the teams throughout the organization.
There has been plenty of discussion concerning the consistent developing of young arms in the system, even with the likes of Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman rising through the system and making a legitimate impact.
Bridwell says from where he currently stands, there are no roadblocks on the way to success for up-and-coming prospects.
“Obviously it speaks for itself for how many pitchers [the Orioles] used last season and how many people that they have who are ready to answer the call when they need it,” Bridwell said. “Whether that be an older guy or a younger guy, they've done it with everybody. That speaks volumes I think in itself about the organization and how they go about their pitching development. Nobody has ever had anything bad to say about the way they've been used or anything that I've heard, so it's all good.”
For now, the hope for Bridwell and the Orioles is that all facets of his game come together in these early months to warrant a quick call-up this season. As the Orioles rotation struggles to work deep into games, it’s reasonable to believe the team will need quite a few relief innings from players not currently with the club.
With the way the roster currently stands, there’s no reason to believe Bridwell can’t toss in meaningful moments down the stretch.