SARASOTA, Fla. – Mike Belfiore is eager to make it back onto the Baltimore Orioles roster after getting demoted to Triple-A Norfolk last week.
The Huntington, N.Y. native made his MLB debut against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards last season, where he struggled with his first taste of Major League Baseball in allowing three hits, including two solo-home runs, in 1.1 innings pitched.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Boston College graduate recalls the game fondly despite his struggles.
“It was surreal. Being that I went to Boston College, I have so many ties to that team and city,” Belfiore said. “Hopefully when I play them again it will feel more like a normal game, but it was a fun moment.”
The 25-year-old acknowledges that he must continue to improve to become a fixture in the O’s bullpen, and has spent the off-season getting prepared for his next opportunity.
“I think the biggest thing we have to learn is to get away from the game for a couple of weeks to recharge,” he said.
“After that, it’s back to the grind of finding a way to be a better player than you were last year, and finding your flaws and weaknesses and turning them into strengths.
“I spent a lot of time working on making my changeup more consistent and fine-tuning my mechanics, including speeding up my delivery.”
The experience of being in big-league spring training last season should be an asset to Belfiore going forward, as he believes he is now more focused on the task at hand.
“I think I went into last year with an enjoyment of being around this environment [spring training], but now I want to be here full-time or be the first guy called up,” said Belfiore, before finding out he had been demoted. “I have to do whatever I can to get here and stay here, I want to be in the big league.”
With good friend Troy Patton suspended for the opening 25 games of the 2014 season after testing positive for amphetamines, the door appeared to be open for Belfiore to make the big club at Patton’s expense.
However, Belfiore did not relish the prospect of making the club solely due to Patton’s situation.
“I knew that situation was happening,” the right-handed hurler said. “But it’s an open competition always and I have to do whatever it takes to make the team, regardless of what’s happening with Troy.
“Troy and I have a great relationship. He has been a huge help to me and is the first guy I go to if I ever need anything.”
As for the fractured pinkie he suffered earlier in spring training, Belfiore says it is almost fully healed and will not hinder his preparation or performance at all.
“It was the smallest injury,” he said. “It was almost like a jammed finger and it’s a non-issue at this point.”