Biding His Time

DURHAM, N.C. -- NC State baseball fans will remember Chad Orvella as playing shortstop during his time in Raleigh.

In 2002, he hit .326 in 59 games and helped NC State to a 45-18 record, a No. 12 ranking and the school's first-ever berth in an NCAA Super Regional. As a senior, he threw his only pitches as a collegian, working just over 13 innings in relief and went 2-3 with two saves in 10 appearances. Now a pitcher in the Tampa Bay organization, Pack Pride recently caught up with Chad Orvella.

"It (playing at NC State) was probably the best time playing baseball that I can remember," Orvella said. "To tell you the truth, I wish I could have stayed all four years. It was a lot of fun. I made a lot of friends that I still stay in touch with and it's gotten me to this point."

After completing his eligibility, Tampa Bay took Orvella in the 12th round of the June 2003 amateur draft, but the question was whether he would pitch or play in the field. That question was quickly answered once he started playing pro ball.

"There were a lot of teams who said they were going to draft me my senior year as a pitcher," Orvella recalled. "The Devil Rays were one of the few teams who were going to give me a chance to play shortstop, but they didn't. I showed up to the New York Penn League, which is where I started in pro ball after the draft looking to play some short. They called me in the office, and they didn't know what they were going to do with me yet. They put me on the mound, and I pitched two innings and struck out five. Then, they said that I was done playing shortstop."

"I actually expected to go a little higher (than in the 12th round)," he added. "Everyone was telling me the fourth through the eighth round. When it got past the eighth, I didn't know. They put me in a good spot with a good team to get drafted by. If you perform well with the Devil Rays, they have a reputation of moving you up pretty quickly. The coaches here are great and have taught me a lot."

Making the switch from being a position player to a pitcher was a big adjustment for Orvella.

"The biggest adjustment was getting used to not playing every day," he stated. "Now I show up to the field and half the time, I don't play. Then, when I do play, it's only for an inning or two. Pitching in general hasn't been a big adjustment for me. I always felt that if I could make a throw from shortstop to the 120 feet over to first, then I could handle throwing 60 feet to the catcher. Learning pitches and things like that is what probably took the longest. I am still learning pitches since this is only my third or fourth year pitching."

He toiled in the minors during 2003 and 2004 before making his big-league debut on May 31, 2005. He came in with two outs with the D-Rays trailing 10-1 at Oakland and retired all five batters he faced, striking out one. It's a day Orvella still remembers well.

"I was nervous as could be," he said. "It went by so quickly. My dad was there, which was nice and I had some other family there. It just felt like I was going in slow motion. I was trying to go so slowly, but I'm sure I was rushing through everything. My heart was beating so quickly. It was a rush."

Orvella made 22 appearances for the D-Rays last year and looked poised to start the 2007 campaign with the big club when surprisingly, he was optioned to Durham before the end of spring training.

"Yes, it was a shock," he said. "Last year, I started in the minors but wasn't shocked because I had a horrible spring and felt like I had to work on some things. New management came in last year and they were big on guys holding runners on and things like that. Being a shortstop without a lot of pitching experience, I never really did that."

"Throughout the minors on my way up, I was successful enough to not really worry about runners too much," he added. "I made it through AAA and onto the big leagues without anyone really pressing the issue with me. With the new management, that was a big deal. They screwed around with my delivery a little bit and I was off-kilter last year. I came down here and did well last year. This year, throughout the whole offseason, I worked hard on being quicker to the plate, holding runners and little things that make a big difference. In spring training, I allowed one run in 12 innings and felt really good. It was a pretty big shock to me."

For now, Orvella is biding his time. In six appearances thus far for Durham, he is 1-0 with 11 strikeouts. He knows that a return trip to Tampa Bay is just a phone call away. And that is one call he should be receiving in the near future.

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