It was yet another soggy and disappointing weekend for Orioles fans as the team continues to tread water in the basement of the entire MLB. Now with the most losses in baseball, it’s time to start looking for some signs of optimism and change for future Orioles teams. This past weekend, Birdland got yet another glimpse at the flame-throwing lefty, Tanner Scott, who now appears to have cemented himself in the O’s bullpen for good.
Before a brief call-up in September, Scott worked last season in AA Bowie largely making 3-inning starts. The unorthodox method allowed him to get bullpen sessions in between starts to refine his mechanics, and it appears the unusual approach has paid off. Scott is by no means suddenly Greg Maddux out there on the mound, but his overall BB/9 rates continue to be way down from when he posted an absurd 8.0 BB/9 innings in 2016. Likewise, his K/BB ratio is at a career high of 2.83 this year, and that’s pitching in the major leagues.
The Orioles’ 5th-ranked prospect has always brought the heat, that’s never been an issue. Scott brings upper 90’s gas from the left side and has occasionally touched 100 mph. But it’s now his slider, a pitch made that much more deadly in combination with his 80-grade fastball, that’s allowing him to stick in the majors. Since debuting on Orioles top prospects lists in 2015, Scott’s slider has jumped a full grade and continues to improve. And on Saturday night for the Orioles, it was working.
In case you missed it, Scott came into Saturday’s ballgame for Andrew Cashner with the bases loaded and zero outs despite never before entering a game with inherited runners on base. All he did was strike out the side on 15 pitches, including 10 sliders, finishing off the inning with this beautiful pitch to ring up Joey Wendle.
That’s just an unfair pitch when batters have to also look out for the possibility of a 99 mph fastball. If the eye test isn’t enough, Scott’s swinging strike percentage is right up there with the league’s best. The southpaw’s swinging strike percentage of 18.7% ranks fifth among all major league relievers with more than 10 innings pitched, only a tenth of a percentage point behind Aroldis Chapman.
As impressive as it was to watch Tanner Scott strike out the side with the bases loaded on Saturday, his one inning, scoreless appearance the following day may have resonated even more with the coaching staff. Appearing in back-to-back games out of the pen, and excelling nonetheless, was an important step for the young reliever who now appears to be a mainstay in the bullpen as the season meanders on.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the Orioles continue to use Tanner Scott coming out of the bullpen. The lefty has yet to be trusted with a tied ballgame, or even a lead smaller than three runs. But, Scott definitely looks like someone destined for a late-inning role.
Now firmly at the major league level, it should only be a matter of time before Scott starts checking off all of his “firsts” at the major league level. It comes at a perfect time too, because there should be plenty of bullpen innings to go around once we get to the summer trade deadline.