Orioles’ Knuckleballer Mickey Jannis Called Up for MLB Debut
By Arrick Joel
In the midst of a wave of pitcher injuries, the Orioles turn to knuckleballer Mickey Jannis to light a spark with his MLB debut
On Tuesday, prior to the team’s 3-1 loss to the Houston Astros, the Baltimore Orioles announced the addition of right-handed pitcher Mickey Jannis to the 40-man roster. Despite this being the first big league stint of Jannis’ career, he has already made a name for himself amongst baseball fans, becoming the only active knuckleball pitcher in Major League Baseball.
Jannis’ road to the big leagues has been a long one. The now 33-year-old pitcher was drafted in the 44th round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays and has since played within the three different organizations, as well as in foreign leagues and independent leagues. Jannis joined the Orioles on a minor league contract in Janaury of 2020, putting him alongside the other hundreds of players who were unable to continue their progression and showcase their skills due to the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out the 2020 MiLB season.
With the return of Minor League Baseball in 2021, Jannis has appeared in seven games for the Norfolk Tides, the Orioles’ AAA affiliate. Just one of Jannis’ seven outings has been a start as Norfolk has utilized him as a long relief option thus far. In his start, Jannis worked through five innings of two-run ball against the Durham Bulls, a team led by consensus top prospect Wander Franco at the time.
Across the full season, Jannis has pitched 24.2 innings with a very strong 2.92 ERA. As is often seen with knuckleball pitchers like Jannis, the strikeout numbers aren’t quite where they would typically be for an effective major league pitcher. However, Jannis is capable of inducing soft contact with his knuckleball and has gotten success with the pitch so far this season. In his 13 innings at home in 2021, Jannis boasts an elite 1.38 ERA.
With both prominent starters and relievers in the Orioles organization currently dealing with injuries, Jannis’ call-up comes at a time where his role could fluxuate. He has shown the ability to start games as well as pitch out of the bullpen at AAA this season, so his contributions will likely come in whatever form is most urgently needed.