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Can Mychal Givens Close For The Orioles?

January 10, 2018
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Mychal Givens doesn't have to attend the Orioles' minicamp each year, but since he lives an hour away, it's a good opportunity to work out and catch up with teammates and coaches.

Minicamp holds a special meaning to Givens. In 2015, after two seasons of pitching, he was invited to Sarasota and made such a good impression that he was fast-tracked to the big leagues that summer.
  
Signed as an infielder in 2009, Givens floundered offensively, and after the 2012 season, the decision was made to convert him into a right-handed reliever.
 
It was a masterstroke, and now he's a bullpen mainstay. In his first three big league seasons, Givens is 18-3 with a 2.75 ERA.
 
Givens, 27, has never had an opportunity to close with the Orioles. But with Zach Britton out for the first half of the season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon, Givens may have that chance.
 
Last year when Britton missed much of the season's first half, Brad Brach got nearly all the ninth-inning calls. Darren O'Day had a few, too.
 
"We have some people that are capable of doing it," manager Buck Showalter said. "Obviously, nobody with the track record that Zach's done it, but between Darren and Brad and you're talking about Mychal, and you're talking about even on a given night with the matchups there with [left-hander Richard] Bleier.
 
"In a perfect world, you'd be able to spread it around, but I'm not there yet. A lot has to do with the fifth, sixth and seventh pitchers on our staff, the bullpen, what we've got there."
 
Givens didn't throw in the bullpen during the three-day minicamp from Jan. 8-10, only long-tossing. Spring training is still more than a month away, and the Orioles know what Givens is capable of.
 
When he heard the news about Britton last month, Givens said he was stunned.
 
"Sad moment that we lost a family member to our bullpen and our brother," Givens said. "We have our prayers, and hopefully he recovers quickly."
 
With Britton and Brach eligible for free agency after this season, Givens could inherit the closer's job, but he doesn't want to think about Britton's injury as an early chance for him.
 
"I don't really look at it as an opportunity for me to close," Givens said. "We have to come together like we did when Zach was hurt. We had a little period when Darren was hurt. We came together as a bullpen. Cover the innings we can cover and try to compete and hope that the younger guys come up and help fill that role."
 
Showalter knows one thing has to get better for Givens in order for him to be trusted as a closer. He needs to continue his improvement at retiring left-handed hitters.
 
In 2015, left-handers hit .205 in limited chances against Givens. In 2016, their average skyrocketed to .366. Last year, it fell to .184.
 
"He did a better job with it last year," Showalter said. "Darren figured out how to defend himself against left-handed hitters. [Givens] is going to have to gain that confidence, too."
 
Givens is fully aware of that challenge, he said.
 
"It's a game of adjustments," Givens said. "They're going to make adjustments off me. The first year in '15, I did really well against lefties. They found something, and I made adjustments in the second half of '16. Last year, I made more adjustments."
 
Givens has an important role in the bullpen, especially without Britton.
 
"We're going to keep everybody healthy," Showalter said. "We're going to try and keep everybody healthy. I'm confident that we have more than one person capable of doing a good job with it. To think you're going to have somebody do it at the level that Zach did it, that's historic. There's not a guy out there like that."
 
NOTE: Bleier was the only pitcher to throw in the bullpen on the final day of minicamp. He was also the only pitcher to throw twice.


Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox