DETROIT -- If you had seen Yennier Cano last season with the Twins and Orioles, you would never have guessed the way he would begin this year.
In 13 appearances in 2022 -- 10 games with the Twins and three with the Orioles -- Cano was 1-1 with an 11.50 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 18 innings.
Cano, 29, didn’t open this season with Baltimore, but he has certainly made the most of his opportunity since getting called up from Triple-A Norfolk on April 14.
Sunday afternoon against the Tigers, Cano came into the game in the bottom of the eighth to relieve Danny Coulombe with the Orioles clinging to a 4-3 lead.
With runners at first and second and two out, Cano struck out Jake Rogers, who had hit a two-run homer off of starter Kyle Bradish in the fifth.
Cano completed his second save in the ninth, getting two groundouts and a strikeout as the Orioles won, 5-3, earning their sixth straight series win.
“I think working in and through the strike zone has been the biggest difference. I think that’s been the key for me this year,” Cano said through team translator Brandon Quinones. “I know my stuff is good. Everyone tells me my stuff is good, so it wasn’t a matter of that. It was just a matter of finding the strike zone and finding a way to work through it.”
It marked the first time Baltimore had won six consecutive series since July 21 to Aug. 13, 2014.
“On top of the fact that we’re winning, we’re having a lot of fun doing it,” Cano said.
Cano has now gone 32 straight at-bats without allowing a hit. His only miscue is one hit batter.
“I can’t even describe it,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Has anybody ever seen that? Nope, so it’s indescribable. He’s up there with a ton of confidence, throwing a ball that’s moving two feet down at 95 mph, with a good changeup also. You take your chances on probably either a ground ball or punchout. He’s been enormous for us.”
“I think what I’m doing right now is great,” Cano said. “But I don’t think about that. Every time I step on the mound, it’s a matter of going in there, getting the job done and focusing on the task at hand, not focusing on what I’m accomplishing.”
Bradish and Hyde credited the bullpen with Sunday’s victory, but Bradish agreed with his manager that he’s never seen anything like what Cano is doing.
“No, not at any level, and to be doing it at this level just shows the kind of pitcher he is and the kind of stuff he has,” Bradish said.
Tigers manager A.J. Hinch had to appreciate the performance, even if he didn’t enjoy it.
“He's pitching with a ton of confidence," Hinch said. "The [arm] angle is different. He's a big human coming from a funky angle. The changeup looks really good. I don't know if that's added or if that's something that he's always had.
“We haven't seen him a ton, but these last 10 days, we've unfortunately seen him too much, because he pitches when they're ahead. He looks tough to hit -- especially to righties -- and he can defend himself against the lefties."
Second baseman Adam Frazier has had a good spot to watch Cano, and he is definitely enjoying it, along with the rest of the Orioles.
“It’s fun to watch,” Frazier said. “It’s impressive. He’s throwing sinkers that look like they move about three feet and a changeup that falls off the table, so nothing like a comfortable at-bat for lefties or righties right now. [We'll try] to keep him right where he’s at and keep that coming.”
For now, Cano is having personal success, team success and having fun. His confidence is in a good spot, too.
“It’s in the sky right now,” Cano said, smiling.