Even though he had the opportunity to suit up in a pinch and sit in the bullpen at one Cactus League game last year, righty pitching prospect Trevor Oaks is still excited for his first official non-roster invite to the big league camp of the Dodgers, and hopes to take advantage of every single moment.
Although he never appeared in the game, Oaks filled the empty spot on the pitching staff last spring when Mike Bolsinger initially suffered an oblique injury during the tail end of Cactus League play. This year, though, he’s in the major league camp from day one, garnering the full attention of the entire staff, including special assistant Orel Hershiser, a new addition to the coaching crew taking over for the departed Greg Maddux.
“Orel talks with us in the mornings. It’s incredible to hear from such an amazing pitcher,” Oaks said about Hershiser. “He hasn’t really talked too much about breaking balls or spin yet, but he’s worked with us on our setup and delivery. He’s big on details, so it’s pretty cool to hear his perspective.”
Oaks racked up a franchise-leading 14 wins to go along with a 2.73 ERA across three levels of the farm last year. For Triple-A Oklahoma City, he was 5-1 with a 2.99 ERA over 10 starts in 63 innings of work. He started the year in High-A Rancho Cucamonga, where he went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts. With Double-A Tulsa, he went 8-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 10 starts.
In addition to being named PCL Pitcher of the Week late last August, Oaks was named to the Texas League All-Star squad at the mid-season break, just after earning the Texas League Pitcher of the Week Award for the period of June 6-12.
As far as his pitching repertoire, Oaks, who was selected by the Dodgers in the seventh round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Cal Baptist, heavily relies on his sinker, while also featuring an occasional four-seamer, a cutter, a slider, a changeup and periodically a curve ball.
Even though he’s only thrown in two official bullpens so far this spring, Oaks says he hasn’t felt any lingering effects from the strained groin that ended his season prematurely last September, just before the beginning of the Pacific Coast League playoffs.
“The groin is all healed up. It’s important to stay on top my exercises to keep it strong throughout the year,” he explained. “I spend a lot more time warming up and making sure I’m stretched out and my legs are fresh.”
And although it’s only the beginning of camp, Oaks is happy with the way he’s been throwing the ball so far.
“Second bullpen was good, but I would’ve liked to have been down more in the zone. Still, I was happy with my arm strength and movement. I’m trying to work on front hip sinkers to lefties as another weapon, so it’s been fun experimenting. I’m really looking forward to seeing live hitters and getting an idea of where I’m at,” Oaks said.
Looking far ahead towards the regular season, Oaks figures to be among the half-dozen or so pitchers competing for a spot in the star-studded rotation at OKC, but first he hopes to prove to the management crew of the Dodgers that he has both the talent and skills to compete in the bigs.
“My goals for spring training are just to compete and show the coaches and front office that I can play at this level. Establish myself as a guy that can help out the team. I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road, but I’m doing my best to improve and figure out ways to make my stuff even better.”