Strop claimed by Orioles

Hard-throwing reliever Pedro Strop was claimed on waivers by the Baltimore Orioles, completing Wednesday's trade for lefty Mike Gonzalez. Lone Star Dugout looks at the 26-year-old hurler, who has legitimate plus stuff but failed to solidify himself as a full-time big leaguer in parts of three seasons with the Rangers.

The Baltimore Orioles claimed right-handed reliever Pedro Strop via waivers on Thursday afternoon, completing Wednesday's trade for lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez.

Strop, 26, made the Rangers' opening day bullpen with a strong performance in spring training. But he was optioned back to Triple-A after 11 appearances in which he yielded four runs on seven hits in 9.2 innings, walking seven and striking out nine.

The Dominican Republic native has pitched parts of three seasons in the majors with Texas, logging 27.1 total innings. In all three stints, he has flashed power stuff but struggled to repeat his delivery with consistency.

His problems with consistency appear to be adrenaline-related. When Strop pitched in the minor leagues, he had little trouble staying back, getting on top of his stuff, and showing solid command. In the majors, the reliever often rushes through his delivery, causing him to fall behind in counts and elevate his stuff within the zone.

"I want to show that I'm slowing everything down," Strop told Lone Star Dugout after he was optioned back to Triple-A in early May. "In Triple-A, they want me to work on slowing things down. It's a different level. It's a different adrenaline game. The big leagues is the big leagues.

"If they want me to work on that, I'm going to do it here. But whenever I get (back to the majors), that's when I'm really going to put my practice to work."

As Strop mentioned, it's difficult to match a major league adrenaline rush while pitching in much more low-pressure minor league situations. He pitched well after returning to the minors, with a 3.59 earned-run average in 39 appearances at Triple-A Round Rock. He logged 47.2 innings and yielded 53 hits while walking 24 and striking out 55.

Strop actually scuffled in May after initially being optioned, but he has been excellent since the beginning of June––38.1 ip, 39 h, 11 er (2.58 ERA), 19 bb, 43 k.

Raw stuff has never been an issue for the hurler, who has mid-to-upper 90s velocity to go along with two secondary pitches that also flash plus. His velocity even jumped a tick in Triple-A this year––Strop's fastball began sitting between 96-98 mph, and he touched 100 mph during a recent outing, according to the Newberg Report's Scott Lucas.

Even with the strong Triple-A results this season––including the usual excellent strikeout rate––Strop has been more hittable than he should be given the plus stuff. With the fireballing reliever, it all comes down to repeating his delivery and commanding his fastball low in the strike zone.

Strop, who converted to the mound from shortstop while with the Rockies in 2006, also mixes in a good mid-80s slider that has helped him limit right-handed batters to a punchless .225/.290/.297 line this season.

His power splitter, which can reach as high as 91 mph, is actually the sharper of his two secondary pitches. But as Strop explained earlier this season, the pitch has so much late drop that he rarely throws it for a strike––it's only a viable weapon if he's getting ahead of hitters. And he hasn't done that with consistency in the majors thus far.

"It was pretty much fastball-slider," said Strop of his major league stint this season. "I use my splitter more as a strikeout pitch and to lefties. When I feel that my slider is working the way it's supposed to work, I'll throw that to righties.

"But I can control (the slider) better––I can throw it for strikes, I can throw it low in the zone when I want. The splitter––I can control it, but it will go low or in the dirt."

The 6-foot-0, 175-pound hurler introduced a more pronounced leg kick into his delivery during spring training in order to help him stay back and keep from rushing his mechanics. He believes the changes have helped.

"All the things I was working on let me do those things easier––things like staying back in my delivery," he said earlier this season.

In part because the Rangers have been in a playoff race during each of the last three seasons, Strop never got an opportunity to work through his struggles at the major league level. With Baltimore, he could benefit from getting to work in more low-pressure major league situations through the remainder of this season.

"I feel more confident in my stuff," he said in May. "Last year, everything was quick. I was going up and then back down. I feel a lot better. But things that started happening with me in the game––(the Rangers) just said that I had to come down and work."

It's too early to tell if Strop will ultimately capitalize on his new life in Baltimore. Strop is out of options after this season, so he'll need to begin producing in order to make the club out of spring training next season. But it's certainly a more favorable situation for the reliever, who has legitimate plus stuff but is looking to solidify himself as a full-time big leaguer.

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