Brian Gonzalez Provides A Lefty Relief Option
The Orioles left openings on their 60-man player pool so that they could gradually filter players to their alternate training site in Bowie, Md. Players would be assigned there depending on potential needs at the major league level or the desire to enhance prospects' development process.
Lefthander Brian Gonzalez seemed to fit both categories.
A 2014 third-rounder from Archbishop McCarthy High in Southwest Ranches, Fla., Gonzalez was an unexpected inclusion to the pool on Aug. 7. The Orioles traded reliever Richard Bleier to the Marlins, and Gonzalez gave them an extra lefthander who might be able to assist them in the bullpen later this summer.
The cancellation of the minor league season and initial pool snub could have shaken Gonzalez, 24, and left him wondering about his future, but he took it in stride and has made a positive impression in Bowie. Hearing from Orioles director of pitching Chris Holt and Triple-A Norfolk pitching coach Kennie Steenstra also eased his mind.
“I tend not to worry about things I can’t control,” Gonzalez said. “In conversations with Chris Holt and Kennie Steenstra, who was our contact man during the second offseason quarantine, they just kept saying, ‘Be ready, you never know when you might get the call for the 60-man.’ That was my mindset."
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound lefthander earned consideration based on his successful transformation to relief after registering a 4.91 ERA in 21 starts with high Class A Frederick in 2017 and a 5.69 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) the following year at Double-A Bowie.
Moved to the Bowie bullpen in 2019, Gonzalez held hitters to a .209 average and posted a 1.06 WHIP in 41.2 innings.
“Biggest thing I would say is just routine-wise, just a different day to day," Gonzalez said. "As a starter, you have four days to prepare, and in the bullpen you have to be ready every day. I enjoyed that. I liked being able to be in the game every day, be some part of the game.
And I was mostly used in long relief, so I was still getting length out of the bullpen."
— Righthander Hunter Harvey was facing hitters at the alternate camp while recovering from soreness in his right elbow. Harvey began the season on the injured list and could finally make it back to Baltimore by the end of August.
— The Orioles still view 2016 second-round lefthander Keegan Akin as a starter despite his Aug. 14 major league debut coming out of the bullpen. Akin was optioned to the alternate site and later recalled on Aug. 25 after Wade LeBlanc went on the 60-day injured list.