SARASOTA, FL — For Darren O’Day, the first cut was one of the deepest.
The Baltimore Orioles’ laid-back submarine pitcher from Jacksonville, Florida has had a turbulent time settling into the Major Leagues, but he would have never made it at all if it were not for the first time he could not make a ball club.
O’Day chose to go to the University of Florida for academic reasons, and was not offered a scholarship for baseball. It was after his first year at Gainesville that O’Day was forced to make drastic changes to his game.
“I tried to walk on the team in my freshman year and I got cut,” O’Day said, outside Ed Smith Stadium a few weeks back, a few hours before the Orioles’ spring training game against the Blue Jays.
“So during that summer after not playing baseball my whole freshman year, I joined my buddy’s mens’ league team, so I went out and started screwing around and throwing sidearm.
“So I just became a starting pitcher throwing sidearm.”
That switch in mechanics helped catapult O’Day into the Major Leagues.
O’Day signed his first big league contract with the Anaheim Angels in May of 2006 as an amateur free agent for $390,000 – a long ways off from of his current $4.25-million.
Unfortunately for O’Day, there was no Cinderella-ending in Southern California, and his journey to Baltimore was just starting.
“In 2008, I tore a labrum in my throwing arm and the Angels cut me,” O’Day said, “I went to the Mets, and they cut me. I went to the Rangers, and that’s where I established myself and then they cut me because I got hurt. It was a rough time.”
Finally on a brisk November day in northern Florida in 2011, O’Day received a call from Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter where he was told that Baltimore had selected him off waivers from Texas
He had the best season of his career in 2012 putting up outstanding numbers in his first year with the orange and black clad Orioles, going 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 69 games.
With last season’s success as a team and personally, O’Day has finally found a landing spot for his unorthodox style.
“I’ve bounced around a little bit. I’ve been on four teams in five years now, and it’s been a little crazy, like my pitches I guess, but I’m really happy where I’m at now, and hopefully I’ll be here for a few years.”