SARASOTA, Fla. — Standing in front of his locker Friday, glove tucked under his left arm, Joey Krehbiel felt he at least understood the issues facing him.
A day earlier, his second inning of the spring had gone much like the first — poorly. The right-hander allowed two home runs to the Detroit Tigers, including a three-run shot from former Orioles infielder Tyler Nevin. On Feb. 27, Krehbiel allowed two homers to the Tampa Bay Rays. In total, across 1 2/3 innings, Krehbiel has allowed eight runs.
But after conversing with manager Brandon Hyde and pitching coach Chris Holt, Krehbiel at least thinks he knows the problem at hand. He can point to his velocity, for one, which is down from where he usually sits during the season. His mentality, he admits, is almost too relaxed.
“Not that I need a wake-up call,” Krehbiel said, “but it’s nice getting one.”
He didn’t just get one. He got four of them, coming in swift succession to cause his early spring training appearances to unravel. Now, though, he has a month to find the form needed to break camp as a member of Baltimore’s bullpen.
“If I took the same exact approach I took now and I struck out the side, there would be no talks,” Krehbiel said. “But that would mean that I had gotten lucky and kind of got through this. So, seeing this as early as possible like I am in camp now, I almost have a full month to figure it out. Not that I have figured it out, but I’ve seen kind of what’s going wrong.”
Krehbiel carved out a high-usage role during the first half of last season, allowing just eight earned runs in 33 innings. Then, in his final 24 2/3 innings, he recorded an ERA of 6.20, and opposing batters hit .304 against him.
Finally, entering the final week of the season, the Orioles optioned Krehbiel to Triple-A Norfolk.
“We know what kind of pitcher he can be,” manager Brandon Hyde said, even though the Orioles haven’t seen it recently. “Just want to see him improve over the course of camp.”
Krehbiel feels he can make improvements by slightly tweaking his delivery. It’s not the base mechanics of it; rather, Krehbiel wants to speed up his movements, hoping that can add some velocity back to his pitches.
Last year, Krehbiel’s four-seam fastball averaged 94.4 mph. But on Thursday in Lakeland, Florida, Krehbiel maxed out at 93.6 mph — and his average fastball was over 2 mph slower than last season.
That’s not out of the ordinary for Krehbiel. Nor is the poor start to the spring. In his first two outings of 2022 spring training, he combined to allow four runs, and it took time for his velocity to reach standard levels again, too.
“Some guys come in and they throw 98, and maybe they withstand it, and maybe they don’t,” Krehbiel said. “I definitely gradually go. It’s not like I have a solidified spot on the team or not, but I definitely can’t just go full-go. I feel like I’ve been around for a little while. I know myself; I know what to expect. That’s why I’m not necessarily upset about the outings, just because I know a week or two down the road, it’s not even going to look the same.”
Would Krehbiel have preferred to not give up four long balls in 1 2/3 innings? Sure.
But with the calendar only recently flipping to March, he has time to turn his spring around and prove the latter half of 2022 won’t carry into the beginning of 2023.