by Joe Reisel
The Norfolk Tides used an International League-record 75 players in 2012. One reason they used so many players was that the parent Orioles would either suddenly promote a pitcher or tell the Tides not to use a pitcher to keep him ready for a sudden promotion. If the Tides didn’t have usable pitchers to get through a game safely, the Orioles would promote a pitcher who could quickly get to wherever the Tides were playing and who was able to pitch. These emergency pitchers might be recalled from Advanced Class A Frederick or Class A Delmarva. And, as you might expect, most of those pitchers promoted from the lower levels were overmatched by AAA hitters.
However, one of those emergency pitchers not only outperformed expectations, he managed to stay with the team for the entire last month of the season. Righthander Zach Petersime was promoted from Delmarva in August. He was the Orioles’ 45th round draft choice in 2009. He signed and was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Orioles, where he pitched fairly well as a starter. He started 2010 in extended spring training; joined Bluefield in the Appalachian League in June, and didn’t pitch well as a swingman (seven starts, nine relief appearances.) He started 2011 in extended spring training; joined Aberdeen in the NY-Penn League in June, and pitched poorly as a relief pitcher.
It would have been expected that had would be released during spring training 2012. But he survived and again started 2012 in extended spring training. In June, he was assigned to Aberdeen; after one game, he was promoted to Delmarva. He pitched fairly well as a part-time closer when he got summoned to Norfolk as an emergency pitching replacement. There is a story, probably not true, that he got the promotion because Delmarva’s return trip from a road trip took them past Harbor Park; the bus detoured to the parking lot and dropped the most-rested pitcher off.
With the Tides, Petersime pitched well in two long relief appearances. On August 18 I saw him start a “bullpen game”, one in which the scheduled starting pitcher became unavailable and several relief pitchers go as long as they can. Petersime, who hadn’t started a game in two seasons, pitched three scoreless innings. In the fourth inning, L.J. Hoes misplayed a fly ball into a triple; Petersime retired the next batter but after allowing two more hits was relieved after allowing two more hits. Pedro Viola allowed those two inherited runners to score; making Petersime’s line (3 runs in 3 1/3 innings) look worse than he really pitched. He made another emergency start five days later. That game was on the road so I didn’t see him. He gave up three runs in 3 1/3 innings, which was good enough for an emergency starter. The Tides were impressed enough to give him a third start even though there was a starting pitcher on rotation. I saw that game, in which he allowed two runs in five innings. For a pitcher skipping two levels and being pressed into an unfamiliar role, he was outstanding.
Under normal circumstances, in 2013 Petersime would probably be assigned to Delmarva as a relief pitcher. But based on his success in Norfolk, I think he has earned an assignment to Frederick. And based on how well he pitched in emergencies, I think he should be tried again as a starting pitcher. Zach Petersime may not be a real prospect, and the chances are slim that he’ll even ever see AAA baseball again. But he’s earned the chance to try the next level.