Baltimore Orioles: Hunter Cervenka Could Be Worth A Quick Look
By Nick Stevens
How much of Hunter Cervenka will we see in 2020? Since we’re talking about the Baltimore Orioles, probably a lot.
He isn’t a prospect, in fact, he’s almost 30 years old, and since being drafted in the 27th round of the 2008 draft by the Boston Red Sox, LHP Hunter Cervenka has logged just 48 major league innings, but let’s talk about the Baltimore Orioles minor league pitcher. What else is there to talk about in Birdland?
Recently, MASN’s Roch Kubatko took a shot at predicting the Orioles Opening Day roster, which isn’t particularly hard task considering the Orioles aren’t likely to sign anyone to a major league free agent deal this winter. At the very end of the piece, Kubatko mentioned Hunter Cervenka as someone who may get a shot during spring training. So, let’s get to know him a little bit better.
Cervenka has pitched for the Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, Detroit Tigers, and St. Louis Cardinals organizations since 2008, making 326 appearances in the minor leagues and posting a 27-33 record, 4.17 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a .228 average against. He’s stuck out 542, walked 318, and given up just 28 home runs in more than 515 innings. Not bad for a journeyman reliever, other than all of those walks.
Those numbers include nine outings with the Norfolk Tides in 2019 after signing a minor league free agent deal with the Orioles on August 7th, his second stint with the Orioles. He was with the organization for about three weeks in March of 2018 before being released and joining the Tigers a few weeks later.
In his brief time with the Tides, Cervenka struck out 18, walked five, and allowed just seven hits across 12 innings, good for a 1-0 record, a 2.25 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, and a .175 average against.
As a major leaguer with the Braves and Marlins, Cervenka hasn’t had an issue when it comes to limiting base hits (.192 average against in 48 IP), but walks have been a serious problem, allowing 36 in his brief stints. However, working in his favor is his ability to get both lefties and righties out.
Using his 2016 numbers in the pros, Cervenka limited LHH to a .200 average and RHH to a .209 mark. His minor league numbers don’t show any extreme splits, so if given extended time in the big leagues, maybe he can hold his own against both lefties and righties and be able to handle the three-batter minimum which will go into effect next season (at least handle hitters as well as a 30-year-old journeyman reliever can).
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Cervenka re-signed with the Orioles on a minor league deal a few weeks ago and has an outside opportunity to make the major league roster on an Orioles squad destined for a massive loss total in 2020 (I’m placing bets on setting a franchise-record for losses), or at least see his fair share of innings via the Baltimore-Norfolk shuttle.
Currently, only Richard Bleier, Paul Fry, and Tanner Scott throw from the left side out of the bullpen. Bleier and Fry are coming off rough seasons, while Scott has yet to find steady success in the big leagues, although he did end the season a very positive note. With two options remaining, we may see a lot of Cervenka throughout the 2020 season, especially if the lefties currently on the roster continue to struggle or fall victim to the new three-batter rule in the major leagues.
Cervenka pitched in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, where he continued to limit base hits (9 in 13 IP), but walks continued to haunt his performances (six of them).
Typically utilizing his slider more than any other pitch, including a 91-93 mph fastball, Cervenka will be someone to watch this spring training, if nothing more than to familiarize yourself with the 6’1″ and 250-pound reliever before he spends a large amount of time in the big leagues.
If you love fringe major league pitchers and Quad-A guys pitching in the big leagues, the 2020 season will be one fun ride for you!