Even before he went down with a herniated disc in his lower back in late April, Orioles pitching prospect Dillon Tate had begun pitching out of the bullpen for Double-A Bowie.
And since returning from the injured list in early June, the right-hander, who was part of the return from the New York Yankees for reliever Zack Britton last July, has shown promise as a relief pitcher after spending all of last season as a starter with Double-A Trenton and the Baysox. In 10 relief appearances since June 3, Tate has posted a 2.60 ERA in 17.1 innings while striking out 20 and walking just one.
"I really do believe that I am a bullpen guy, but what doesn't sit well with me is when somebody else tries to label what I am," Tate said on
Glenn Clark Radio
July 3. "... I feel like if somebody tries to put that label on me, I might try to prove somebody wrong and just go out there and start. I don't think now is the right time but you might see me start in the future, who knows?"
Prior to his injury, the right-hander had made two starts and three relief appearances for Bowie. But after spending a month in Sarasota, Fla., rehabbing his back, Tate said he was able to briefly step away from baseball and remember to have fun again.
"That's kind of when I started to see things turn around," Tate said.
After making one appearance with High-A Frederick June 3, Tate returned to the Baysox, with whom he has found success in nine relief appearances. He posted a win, two saves and a .189 batting average against opposing hitters in the month of June.
Tate said his newfound focus is thanks in part to a change in mentality from starting to relieving.
"I think it's more of an attack mode mindset. There's just more aggression behind the pitches out of the 'pen," Tate said. "There's more of a killer instinct. For me personally, when I'm starting, I feel like I have a little bit too much time to think and in the bullpen, it's more of just go, go, go. I think that quick, action-packed atmosphere is more suited for me just as a player at this point."
Since arriving in Baltimore from New York, Tate said it took some time to get used to his new situation, though he adapted quickly -- partly because the Britton trade was not the first blockbuster deal he has been a part of in his young career.
In 2015, after going 8-5 with a 2.26 ERA as a junior at UC Santa Barbara, Tate was drafted fourth overall by the Texas Rangers. A little more than a year later, he was shipped to New York in a trade for Carlos Beltran.
When he arrived in Bowie last July, Tate struggled to the tune of a 5.75 ERA in seven starts for the Baysox.
"Initially it is [an adjustment]," Tate said of being traded. "Like I've said previously, it's a little bit easier being introduced into a trade the second go-round as opposed to the first. But I won't make any excuses for myself and say that had anything to do with my performance.
"I think that there was a little bit of an adjustment period in getting used to my surroundings, but I don't think that that had much to do with my performance, really. I just think that I just wasn't pitching well and I think that's all it really comes down to. I think I just have to not think but I have to own up to that fact."
With several strong bullpen outings under his belt, Tate said he's focused on continuing to work hard while trying not to be paralyzed by the avalanche of available data to analyze how he's performing.
"Just a 'ready, fire, aim' type of deal," he said. "That's just kind of the mentality that I've had and just not looking too far into any sort of analytics and competing really."
For more from Tate, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Bill Vaughan/Bowie Baysox