02/28/11 5:30 PM EST
Accardo savoring fresh start with Orioles
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
After being non-tendered by Toronto, he found that with Baltimore, where Accardo -- signed to a one-year split contract this offseason -- is one of the front-runners for the team's final two bullpen spots.
"I couldn't be happier with where I'm at now," said Accardo, who tossed a scoreless inning in his first spring outing on Monday. "Before, it was kind of tough to get excited about the little things, but here it's a different story. I'm happy to come to the park every day and I'm excited."
The 29-year-old right-hander comes to O's camp on the heels of a tumultuous time in Toronto. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Giants, Accardo was traded to the Blue Jays midway through the 2006 season. He posted a 2.14 ERA the following year, recording 30 saves in lieu of injured closer B.J. Ryan.
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But Accardo sustained a right forearm injury during the '08 season and struggled to regain the splitter that made him so effective, posting a 6.57 ERA in 16 Major League appearances. Even when healthy, Accardo spent the majority of the next two seasons with Triple-A Las Vegas, where he stayed focused by the reminder that he wasn't just pitching for the Blue Jays, he was auditioning for 29 other teams.
"I learned a lot," Accardo said of his time toiling in the Minor Leagues. "It was kind of a different thing, because [being in Triple-A] wasn't really based on performance. And I'll be the first to admit if I'm not pitching well, I don't belong up there. You are trying to win games and put [butts] in the seats. But it got to a point the last two years where I don't even think performance mattered."
Accardo credits his family, his agent and Las Vegas pitching coach Dave LaRoche with helping him keep focus and not "mentally buckling" despite his frustration. His 2010 numbers -- 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA in 42 Triple-A outings and a 8.10 mark in five games with the Blue Jays -- convinced the Orioles he was worth a shot.
"It's a good situation that I'm in now and I can't ... I have no regrets about what I've done in the past or anything," Accardo said. "I'm just excited about what's going to happen."
Accardo, who recorded two flyouts and a strikeout in the eighth inning of Monday's 6-4 win over the Pirates, is part of a bullpen that is projected to include Kevin Gregg, Michael Gonzalez, Koji Uehara and Jim Johnson, all of whom have experience closing games.
"It's kind of lightning in a bottle if you really think about it," Accardo said of the wealth of experienced late-inning relievers in the O's bullpen. "Because there's always going to be those little things along the way where you might need somebody to step into a certain role, and they are not going to be new to it. And that can sometimes cost you games. Hopefully, that doesn't have to happen to us."
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.