Free-agent pitcher David Hess, who pitched for the Orioles for parts of three seasons, isn’t sure where he’ll end up this offseason, but he’s open to all options, including returning to Baltimore, after a rough 2020 campaign.
During his first two seasons with the Orioles, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Hess appeared in a total of 44 games, pitching 183.1 innings. Hess recorded a 4.88 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 37 walks in 2018, while he posted a 7.09 ERA with 68 strikeouts and 30 walks in 2019. Hess appeared in just three games for a total of seven innings in 2020.
Hess first pitched for the Orioles this year July 24 (opening night) for three innings. He had to throw 68 pitches to get those nine outs, and he allowed three runs and seven hits. He did not pitch again for the big-league team until Aug. 7. He was shuffled between the big-league team and the alternate site at Double-A Bowie throughout the season.
While Hess isn’t interested in making excuses for how his season turned out, he said he struggled to get on track early in the shortened season.
“Getting into the season, it seemed like I couldn’t really get a footing and get some momentum going,” Hess said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 17. “I don’t know if that was the circumstances of COVID or what was going on with the baseball element at the time. … At the end of the day the saying is, ‘If you don’t like it, play better.’ So I think that stands true. It just turns out 2020 was kind of a rough year to have the type of season [that] I did.”
Hess, 27, was a fifth-round pick by the Orioles out of Tennessee Tech in 2014 and spent parts of six seasons in Baltimore’s minor-league system. The Orioles dropped him from their 40-man roster after the 2020 season, and he elected free agency. With COVID-19 still looming over MLB and creating uncertainty regarding what’s to come in the 2021 season, Hess is not entirely sure where he will go next.
No matter what ends up happening this offseason, Hess is confident that he will improve his performance wherever he ends up. While Hess is open to re-signing with the Orioles, he said a fresh start with another team would be would be a solid opportunity as well.
“Ultimately, we are kind of feeling it out and seeing how everything is, but you want to be where they want you,” Hess said. “And so if that’s the Orioles, that’s great, and if it’s someone else, so be it. Regardless of what happens, I think that there is always going to be that soft spot for Baltimore. They drafted me, that’s all I’ve known and I’ve made some really good relationships along the way.”
During the 2020 season, MLB and the MLB Players Association put forth protocols to play a season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hess said the most difficult part of that was being able to get everyone in the league to buy into the new rules and guidelines. Hess had one word to describe the season.
“I think really if I can break it down into just one word, [it would be] adjustment,” Hess said. “I mean, across the board, you’re seeing everybody kind of have to transition into what COVID has brought to the table. And we have been no different. I think a lot of it was a big question mark as to whether we were going to get to play to begin with to just kind of transitioning to what it looks like in the clubhouse, on the field.”
While Hess was with the Orioles in 2020, he noticed how diligent the organization was in adhering to the safety guidelines related to the ongoing pandemic, going as far as to limit the amount of people who could sit in the dugout during games. Hess said it was just one big team effort.
“The Orioles handled it really well. I think they did great,” Hess said. “And the guys really bought into doing whatever we had to do to make it work and get back out on the field and do what we love and bring a smile to a difficult situation.”
For more from Hess, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox