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After Early Struggles, Orioles RHP Aaron Brooks Finding Footing As Starter

August 30, 2019
Orioles right-hander Aaron Brooks likes to talk about the importance of timing as a pitcher.

One of his strategies is disrupting batters by changing speeds. The importance of timing could also be applicable to his career.

Brooks was claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics July 6 and was given an opportunity to show he could be a viable part of the starting rotation. After some early bumps in the road, Brooks appears to have found some rhythm and is making a strong case for 2020. 

He had gone winless in his first seven appearances with the Orioles. However, Brooks has won his past two starts in decisive fashion, allowing just one run during his last 11 innings.

In his last outing, he outdueled Nationals starter and two-time All-Star Patrick Corbin in a 2-0 victory. Brooks allowed just two hits and had six strikeouts over six scoreless innings. 

Brooks, 29, credits much of the turnaround to working closely with Orioles pitching coach Doug Brocail and bullpen coach John Wasdin, and one of the keys is keeping the game simple. 

"Getting comfortable with my mechanics," Brooks said following the victory against the Nationals. "Just staying within myself and knowing what my strengths and weaknesses are. For me, I think it’s been effort level. Just try not to overthrow and it seems to put all the pitches in the same category and look the same [to hitters]. So I think it's starting to help out a little bit."

The outing against Washington was especially impressive since there was so little margin for error. The Orioles scored twice in the first inning and were blanked the rest of the way. At one point, Corbin had retired 15 consecutive batters, but he still suffered his first loss since June 11.

The Orioles earned their first road shutout since June 20, 2018, which also came at Nationals Park.

"It’s a great win," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. "That’s a really good ballclub, a playoff ballclub, the hottest team in baseball, coming off a sweep on the road [against the Chicago Cubs] and scoring 10 runs a game. To be able to come in and put zeros up for nine innings, it’s a testament to our pitchers. I think some of our guys are getting better."

Brooks, who was a ninth-round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2011, began the season as part of Oakland’s rotation. However, he went 2-3 with a 5.74 ERA across six starts and was moved to the bullpen. He pitched better as a reliever with a 3.79 ERA, 18 strikeouts and a 1.105 WHIP during nine outings (19 innings). 

Despite the progress, the A’s designated Brooks for assignment to make room for closer Blake Treinen, who was on the injured list with a right rotator cuff strain.  

The Orioles have needed pitching depth all season and provided Brooks with an opportunity as an opener. He got incrementally better before imploding against the Houston Astros Aug. 10, when he allowed nine runs in just three innings as part of a historic 23-2 loss. Brooks had another shaky start against the Boston Red Sox before recovering over his last two outings. 

Brooks is now 4-7 with a 5.79 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in 25 appearances (15 starts and 88.2 innings) between Oakland and Baltimore. He also has 71 strikeouts with just 24 walks. 

The Orioles are hopeful Brooks can continue his recent momentum in Kansas City Sept. 1. That outing could be another big step toward his future in Baltimore. 

Brooks can use his outing against the Nationals as a blueprint. 

"I think just changing speeds and eye levels," said Brooks, who retired 13 of the last 15 batters he faced before making way for the bullpen. "I think it comes down the basics -- timing is everything with hitting and I tried to disrupt the timing and fill up the zone as good as I can."

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox