Andy MacPhail has made it the Orioles' number one organizational priority: develop pitching.
This season 23 different pitchers have appeared in games for the Orioles, several with little or no Major League experience. The opportunity is there. And pitching coach Rick Kranitz hopes the pitchers take advantage of it as they learn to succeed in the big leagues.
Kranitz knows the most important thing for an inexperienced pitcher to remember is that it was talent that got him to the big leagues.
"What I don't want them to do is come up here and change," Kranitz said. "Every pitcher knows how they pitch and what they can do in put away situations. What they can't do at this level is put themselves in situations to do things they aren't comfortable doing."
Kranitz has seen inexperienced pitchers try to take it to another level while facing the best hitters in the game. And that's a problem. "Just because a guy can hit a fastball doesn't mean he can hit your fastball," Kranitz tells his pitchers.
Kranitz tells the pitchers to look at the hitter's swing. That gives a pitcher all the information he needs to help you decide what pitch will be the best pitch to get the hitter out.
Kranitz believes that young pitchers should be over-aggressive and should attack hitters. "They should pound the strike zone," He said. "Major League hitters try to wait you out, try to get into hitters counts. Guys see a good hitter and they try to get him out with something they don't have. You can't do that. You can't make up pitches to do it. You have to use your stuff."
Kranitz learns a lot about a pitcher's makeup by how he reacts within a game. If he stumbles, Kranitz looks to see how he reacts. Does the pitcher understand the situation and how he got into it?
"During the course of the season they're going to have to get out of some tough situations," he said. "When they get stuck out there and they don't know where to go, can they improve on that and learn from their past efforts."
Kranitz always stays with the positives. He reminds the young pitchers they wouldn't be in the big leagues if they didn't have big league stuff. So the advice has a similar theme, "Be yourself; go out and do what you do best; and don't change," he says. "Keep the ball down, locate your fastball and be aggressive. At this level, you must command your fastball first."
Kranitz has a knack for getting through to his pitchers, and he's been busy this season. But the growing pains are necessary as the team builds a staff to contend in the AL East.