SARASOTA, Fla. -- Brock Huntzinger, who had been in the Boston Red Sox's system since he was drafted in 2007, knew he needed a fresh set of eyes this winter. So when Baltimore showed interest -- and with the opportunity of several O's bullpen spots up for grabs -- the right-hander didn't hesitate, signing a Minor League deal with an invite to big league Spring Training.
"[I wanted to] get under another microscope, get some other people to see me," said Huntzinger, who was a third-round Draft pick by Boston and is a dark horse to make the O's this spring. "[The Orioles] made me feel comfortable, and I didn't really know anyone here. So, I'm just coming in and saying, 'Hey, this is what I can do,' and hopefully they like it."
So far, so good. Huntzinger has retired all six batters he's faced, including striking out the side against the Yankees on Tuesday night. The 25-year-old also has thrown a scoreless inning against Red Sox regulars -- also on the road -- and was praised by manager Buck Showalter after both appearances.
"I can't remember the last time I struck out the side," Huntzinger said, when asked if Tuesday's trio of strikeouts was normal. "Probably in high school. I think it was all from getting ahead of guys. If I can start doing that, great. But no, I'm not going to strike everybody out. That's not really my thing."
Huntzinger has been sharp since arriving in Sarasota, and he credits playing winter ball for the first time in his career for helping to keep him on track. He had two stints in the Dominican, including 15 2/3 innings with the Estrellas, where he pitched to a 1.15 ERA. He returned shortly after Christmas and pitched in the postseason for Aguilas.
The Orioles' bullpen has three or four unclaimed spots. Huntzinger said he used to get really into keeping track of roster battles and what contract situations were in the clubhouse, but those days are gone.
"Coming here, I don't know what guys are starters or relievers, who's a free agent. And I think that's just kind of freed up my mind to just go out there and do what I can do," he said. "Obviously, I know they've got their guys or whatever, but they made me feel good in the process this offseason and they said there were going to be opportunities, so hopefully there's an opportunity."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.