Stephen Tarpley Realizes His Full Potential
However, Tarpley was the second pitcher acquired in that 2016 trading frenzy to reach the majors. The 25-year-old was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when rosters expanded on Sept. 1.
Reliever Ben Heller, part of the Miller deal with the Indians, was the first pitcher to be called up. He made his big league debut in 2017 but missed this year after having elbow surgery.
Tarpley suffered a case of shoulder inflammation at spring training in 2017, which prompted a move from the rotation to bullpen. That role change put him on track to possibly carve out a big league career.
"I came back as a reliever," Tarpley said. "The plan was to get me back to a starter, but long relief kind of stuck."
The Orioles drafted Tarpley out of Scottsdale (Ariz.) JC in the third round in 2013. Baltimore traded him to the Pirates for Travis Snider prior to the 2015 season.
"I figured out a nice little sinker and became a groundball pitcher and challenged myself," Tarpley said of his new role as a reliever. "I kind of figured out that was my niche. That was what was working for me and I ran with it. I stayed on the same path. My velo (92-95 mph) came back, (but it was) nothing like it used to be (at) 96-98.’’
Tarpley made 36 appearances this season for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 7-2, 1.94. He struck out 71 and walked 26 in 69.2 innings to earn a callup on Sept. 2. After giving up three runs in his first inning in the big leagues, Tarpley didn’t give up a run in the following five appearances.
While shoulder inflammation led to a role change, Tarpley believes mechanics played a larger part.
"Inflammation was a part of it, but it is just a matter of finding a routine that works for you—because you are going to have inflammation after pitching,’’ Tarpley said. "It was more like me figuring out what works for me to get me to where I want to be.’’
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>> Lefthander Justus Sheffield made his major league debut on Sept. 19 and pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the ninth inning as a reliever. His last four appearances at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre were in relief with the purpose of preparing him for big league bullpen work down the stretch.