Who is breakout Orioles spring training pitcher Albert Suarez?

Who is Albert Suarez and how did he get here?

Mar 5, 2024; Clearwater, Florida, USA;  Baltimore Orioles pitcher Albert Suarez (92) throws a pitch
Mar 5, 2024; Clearwater, Florida, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitcher Albert Suarez (92) throws a pitch / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

March 5 was a day just like any other. I was at work when I got an alert to my phone that the Baltimore Orioles starting lineup for that day's spring training game had been announced. I opened the link and was excited to see a lineup full of current and future Orioles stars like Jordan Westburg, Heston Kjerstad, Colton Cowser and Coby Mayo, among others, when I came across the name Albert Suarez.

I was not familiar with Suarez, who was the starting pitcher for the Orioles that day, so I clicked his name and expected to see a brief minor league history of a young man trying to break into the majors. To my surprise, I learned that Suarez is 34 years old and has been in professional baseball since 2006, when he first signed as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (one year before they shortened their name to the Tampa Bay Rays).

Suarez was back with a major league franchise on Tuesday and starting in a game along with Jackson Holliday, who was just two years old when Suarez signed his first contract. Over the last 16 plus years, Suarez has played baseball professionally with seven different franchises in four different countries. But how did a guy who hasn't played in the major leagues since 2018 get a shot with one of baseball's best teams? Let's look at the incredible path Suarez has taken to get to Sarasota.

Suarez played in the Rays organization through the 2014 season, but only made it to Double-A and never put up impressive numbers in that time. After playing his second season in the Venezuelan Winter League that offseason, Suarez signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2015 season and had a career year. He set a career marks with 11 wins and 163.0 innings pitched while striking out 121 batters, paired with just 40 walks. He had a 2.98 ERA and was selected to the Texas League North Division All-Stars.

After having what Suarez had hoped was his breakout season, he chose free agency and later signed with the San Francisco Giants. Suarez spent the next two seasons bouncing around the Giants system, including 40 appearances in the major leagues, highlighted by 9.7 K/9 in 2017 and his first major league save. Following the 2017 season, Suarez played another season in the Venezuelan Winter League before once again electing free agency.

Suarez got another chance in 2018 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He made 31 appearances, including four starts for the Diamondbacks at Triple-A, but had a 4.97 ERA and did not get back into the majors. Suarez continued to spend his offseasons in the Venezuelan Winter League and once again elected free agency prior to the 2019 season. At 28 years old, though, he had now spent a decade in professional baseball and had not been able to find much extended success.

How did Albert Suarez reach Baltimore Orioles roster?

Still not ready to give up on his baseball dreams, Suarez played in the Japan Central League from 2019-2021 and the Korean Baseball Organization from 2022-2023. In those years, Suarez did show signs of improvement and had a combined ERA just above 3.00 for those years combined. He pitched well enough to sign a minor-league contract with the Orioles and was given an invitation to this year's spring training.

On February 28, Suarez made his first appearance in a spring training game since 2018 and was impressive. He pitched 2.0 perfect innings and recorded two strikeouts against the Minnesota Twins. Suarez threw a four-seam fastball that sat in the mid 90s and topped out at 97.3 MPH, combined with a cutter and a changeup to keep hitters off balance. As good as his performance was that day, Suarez was overshadowed by a 17-hit, 12-run offensive showing by the Birds offense.

Suarez got his next chance as a starter on March 5 against the Philadelphia Phillies and performed even better. In 3.0 innings, Suarez struck out seven Phillies hitters, including Kyle Schwarber twice, Alec Bohm, and Trea Turner. He struck out the side in the third inning to finish his day on a high note. His fastball remained in the mid to upper 90s and maxed out at 97.5 MPH. Suarez also displayed a curveball that he has in his pitch repertoire.

The dominant performance has gotten Orioles fans talking about this guy who seemingly came out of nowhere, but has actually been almost everywhere. The Orioles' pitching factory has been helping pitchers like Felix Bautista and Yennier Cano not only turn their careers around, but pitch in the major leagues at an all-star level. Could Suarez be the next pitcher on that list?