Orioles left-handed reliever Tanner Scott appeared poised to take a step forward this year before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down spring training in mid-March, but he’s not stressing out over when, where or how the baseball season will restart.
Scott says his normal routine in Sarasota, Fla., includes working out and playing catch with his roommate and fellow reliever Cody Carroll. Recent reports indicate that Major League Baseball and the players’ union are discussing plans to play entirely in Arizona and splitting the teams between Arizona and Florida.
“I’m just waiting for the OK,” Scott said on Glenn Clark Radio April 16. “Obviously, everyone watches the news and sees what’s going on. It’s a waiting game, but the big thing is you want to see all these cases get better and not see anyone dying from this. That’s the worst part.”
Scott, who turns 26 in July, was drafted by Baltimore in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Howard College in Big Spring, Texas. The flame-throwing lefty struggled to harness his stuff during the early portion of his minor-league career – he walked 57 hitters in 64.1 innings in 2016 — but he began to figure it out in 2017 thanks in part to a tweak made by the Orioles.
Instead of coming out of the bullpen — which always figured to be his long-term role — the Orioles had him start games for Double-A Bowie in 2017, with each start typically lasting three innings. That allowed him to stay on a consistent schedule in terms of his appearances and side sessions while allocating more innings to him in competitive situations. That helped him fine-tune his delivery, sharpen his command and develop his slider.
Scott posted a 2.22 ERA in 69 innings for the Baysox, striking out 87, walking 46 and allowing a mere 45 hits. That’s when his slider really started to come along.
“Coming up through the minor leagues, if you throw hard and that’s your only pitch, you’re not going to make it so far,” Scott said. “You kind of need two, at least. In 2017 when I was doing the three-inning starts is really when my slider developed. In ’18, I really trusted it. In ’19, I trusted it. It’s the biggest pitch I love. It’s fun.”
Scott has shown serious strikeout stuff during his big-league career (12.7 K/9), but his command has meant he’s struggled to stick in Baltimore. However, he’s shown flashes of what he’s capable of, especially when putting hitters away with that slider.
“I want to say 2018 is when I got the best feel of it,” Scott said of his slider. “Obviously, the analytics, you look at it, you want to see what it’s doing. I know when I throw a bad one, what it feels like and what it looks like compared to when it feels good. I’m like, ‘Oh, it feels good.’”
Should baseball be played this year — whether it’s in Arizona, Florida or Baltimore — the Orioles will be looking to improve a lot of areas after last year’s 54-108 record, and the bullpen certainly qualifies. Baltimore ranked last in the major leagues in relievers’ ERA at 5.79, and Scott is a candidate to take a step forward and help out the bullpen.
Though Scott posted a 4.78 ERA for the Orioles in 2019, he struck out 37 hitters in 26.1 innings and continued to show that when he’s throwing strikes, he looks like a late-inning inning arm. Right-handers Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey figure to get the bulk of the work in the ninth inning, but is that something Scott would embrace should he get opportunities to do that at some point?
“Just put me in the game. I want to compete. I’m a big competitor. I want to be the one between the pitcher and the batter who wins,” Scott said. “I want to win all the time. If that happens, that happens. Just give me the ball.”
To hear more from Scott, including the explanation of his favorite bullpen game, listen to the full interview here:
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