Considering Cade Povich was the headliner of the Orioles’ four-pitcher haul for All-Star closer Jorge Lopez last summer, it’s hard to say his value was ever understated. Yet at the time, there’s been a sense around the Orioles’ front office that Povich’s talent and potential were being overlooked by others throughout the game. His progress since the trade has likely strengthened their conviction in both the deal and the headline pitcher they acquired.

Since that trade last August, Povich has improved his arsenal and refined his pitch mix in a manner that will ensure he’s as prepared as possible to succeed in the majors — an assignment that at this rate isn’t too far in the future.

“He has a ton of pitching knowledge in a lot of different areas,” Bowie pitching coach Forrest Herrmann said. “So, he’s really done a nice job putting all of that together, and how it applies to him in particular. He’s really been able to take info that applies well to him and put it into practice to be able to understand maybe what doesn’t apply to me, I don’t need to be doing this. Understanding the low-hanging fruits and the bigger-impact pieces that go into his process is big.”

Cade Povich (93) sprints during a warmup at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on 2/24/23. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Those areas of focus are paying off for Povich, who just turned 23 last month and is off to a strong start at Double-A Bowie. He struck out 10 in five shutout innings Thursday in Harrisburg to lower his ERA to 3.38, with a 1.16 WHIP and 14.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Outside the clear top two of Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, Povich is emerging as perhaps the organization’s next-best pitching prospect.

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Povich’s developmental goals are all designed with one purpose in mind: to have him prepared for major league hitters. As a left-handed starter, he will often see lineups loaded with righties on nights he pitches. Just over 80% of batters faced by left-handed starters in the majors in 2022 were right-handed, with a nearly identical percentage through the first part of 2023.

So he’s been focused on flummoxing right-handed hitters, and his start last Friday against Erie — which had eight righties in the lineup — illustrated that.

At the time of the trade, Povich had been working on a cutter but wasn’t yet using it in games. The Orioles quickly had him incorporate it into his in-game arsenal, and while he said it was better in spring training, the emphasis now is getting that pitch back to where it was and deploying it effectively. Considering his four-seam fastball in the 92-94 mph range and tails away from righties, a pitch in the high-80s that moves towards them creates weak contact.

Povich said: “When we’re able to work the fastball up in the zone, working middle and away, or even in to guys, having something that looks similar velo-wise, spin-wise, but coming in on them definitely changes the eye level on the pitch and also, helps when guys are expecting maybe a fastball. … It helps with he swing and misses, messing with timing, getting bad contact.”

Same goes for a Povich’s changeup, a pitch that was a laggard in his arsenal at the time of the trade and has improved considerably since then. He was able to miss bats with it thanks to much-improved fade on the pitch Friday, a product of working with Herrmann over the offseason to improve its consistency and his ability to locate it.

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“He’s producing some really good movement on that pitch,” Herrmann said. “That’s going to help him match up against different guys, and then, on top of that, he has a lot of conviction in the ball coming out of his hand so he can really sell that pitch like it’s a fastball, and really consistently get to some great locations.”

For Povich, the changes to his arsenal and improvements on these particular pitches give him weapons that account for several different planes — up and down, back and forth, and side to side — which hitters need to adjust their bat paths to and make it more difficult for them to make solid contact.

Featuring the cutter so heavily has influenced Povich’s arsenal more broadly, with his two-plane curveball still an extremely effective weapon to both sides but his sweepy, low-80s slider taking a back seat at the moment so he can focus on four pitches instead of five.

Povich has enjoyed the work that’s gone into refining his arsenal since joining the Orioles. He credited Josh Conway, Bowie’s pitching coach last season, for his help “dialing stuff in,” a process that continued in offseason camps with Herrmann. At major league camp, Povich said major league pitching coach and director of pitching Chris Holt and Herrmann collaborated with him to get “a good feel of what we want” in terms of his arsenal and pitch shapes.

“I think we’ve found that, so it’s really just trying to get consistent with it, having an idea of what it looks like when it’s really good and just making sure we stay on top of it,” Povich said.

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The 23-year-old left-hander’s proactive approach is an attractive one to an Orioles organization that tries to foster that constant desire for improvement among its prospects.

“It’s extremely important, and luckily we have growth-minded guys around the clubhouse — not only him — where they’re willing to get aggressive and get hungry developing these pitches, developing these weapons early,” Herrmann said. “They know where they want to be, they’re connecting the dots and finding their way to get there. But it’s obviously pretty deliberate in terms of the weapons they’re developing and who to throw them against.”

The changes brighten what was already an attractive prospect profile. Povich was considered a top-10 prospect in the organization in some rankings as the winter rolled on, and was a top-100 prospect in ESPN.com’s offseason list.

Povich acknowledges all that is “pretty cool,” even though he knows “the work never stops.”

“Those rankings mean nothing at the end of the day if you’re stuck in the same spot and don’t get better,” he said. “That’s all you can really do — look at it, think it’s cool, be thankful for it, and then keep working.”

jon.meoli@thebaltimorebanner.com

Jon Meoli is the Baltimore Banner's Orioles columnist and head women's ice hockey coach at Loyola University Maryland. 

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