SARASOTA, Fla. — This spring, as general manager Mike Elias strolls through the backfields at the Orioles’ spring training complex, he’s keeping an eye out for this season’s breakout star.

His next Yennier Cano, you could say.

A part of the Jorge López trade in 2022, Cano was torched in his first stint in the majors with the Orioles at the end of that season. But he emerged last spring and, despite not making the team out of camp, was called up in April. He didn’t just stay with the team for the rest of the season. He became an All-Star and a trusted late-inning weapon.

The Orioles have a few relievers who could fit that bill this year — and they’ll need them with Tyler Wells and Cole Irvin expected to start the season in the rotation in the wake of an injury to Kyle Bradish and a setback to John Means. Nick Vespi has that potential; his one-seam fastball gives him a weapon against left-handed hitters now. Jacob Webb and Michael Baumann also are on the short list of guys who could take an increased role this season.

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But one name without major league experience has emerged early: Wandisson Charles.

“He has huge stuff,” Elias told the Baltimore Banner. “Like really big. It’s just a matter of throwing more strikes.”

The 27-year-old righty started his career in the Athletics organization and signed a minor league deal with the Orioles in 2023. He was out of sorts, he said, when he arrived at spring training last year — he missed all of 2020 due to the cancellation of the minor league season and all of 2021 with an injury. In 2022, his last year in the A’s system, he had an 11.43 ERA in Double-A.

After his first season in the system, the Orioles brought Charles back on a minor league contract with an invitation to big league spring training. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

The Orioles, though, saw his potential and brought him in on a minor league deal. Charles has a high upside — including a triple-digit fastball — but was lacking command of all that power. And, as he struggled to rein in his strength, his mental state faltered.

The team put him on the development list to start last season, keeping him in Sarasota after spring training ended to hone his mechanics. He was too quick to the plate, and he had to learn to control his speed.

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“I think it was just the hard work at the end of the day,” Charles said through interpreter Brandon Quinones. “They’ve taught me some things here that have really worked out well for me.”

After an extra month of bullpens and plyometrics — a type of training he had never done before — he was sent to Double-A Bowie. There, as he started to see results, his confidence soared and he started to believe in himself again. He gave up just four earned runs in 15.1 innings, earning a promotion to Norfolk in June.

Triple-A was a different animal as he faced a higher level of competition. He struggled there — his WHIP climbing to 1.6 vs. 0.78 in Double-A — but he was still in the conversation, Elias said, to come to the big leagues. He didn’t get the call, but the Orioles, pleased with his progress, believed in him enough to bring him back on another minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

“We felt that he was making progress with us, and he felt that it was a positive development experience. We wanted to carry it forward one more year,” Elias said. “I think odds are in his favor to get a call this year.”

Charles spent his offseason working on command. In his bullpen session Thursday, he threw 21 pitches, 17 of which were strikes, getting a nod of appreciation from the pitching coaches.

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He knows it’s not quite there yet. But, with each positive session, he’s getting one step closer.

“It’s a reminder that all the hard work you are putting in, you’re seeing the fruits of it,” Charles said. “It makes you want to keep pushing forward and continue working hard to hopefully get to that level.”

This article has been updated to correctly identify John Means as the pitcher whose start to the season has been pushed back.

Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College.

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