Davidson pitcher Durin O’Linger, one of the stars of the Wildcats’ unlikely run in the NCAA baseball tournament, is not done with baseball after all.
O’Linger graduated from Davidson last month and has long planned to attend the University of Florida’s pharmacy school starting this fall. This was often the reason given for O’Linger’s monstrous pitching workload during Davidson’s postseason – the prevailing theory was that he wasn’t going to be doing much with that right arm for the rest of his life except filling prescriptions anyway.
But O’Linger was contacted by the Boston Red Sox Friday morning and plans to sign with the team and start pitching with one of its minor-league affiliates next week, according to Davidson head coach Dick Cooke.
“I was never expecting this,” Cooke said, “and Durin wasn’t, either.”
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O’Linger’s signing – which is contingent upon him passing a physical – comes after his story received major airplay in the media during the past several weeks.
Davidson upset North Carolina – the No. 2 national seed – two straight times in Chapel Hill. O’Linger won the first of those games as a starter and saved the second in relief. He also was one of the Wildcats’ standouts in the Atlantic 10 baseball tournament, which Davidson won as a No. 6 seed to advance to its first NCAA tournament in 115 years of baseball teams at the school. O’Linger threw 236 pitches during the Atlantic 10 tournament. He also started for Davidson in its first super regional game against Texas A&M, ending with a no-decision in a game Davidson lost in extra innings.
“It’s not as if Boston is telling Durin that he’s penciled in as the No. 5 starter for the Red Sox in five years,” Cooke said. “But it still is quite an opportunity.”
O’Linger has already been in contact with the pharmacy school at Florida, Cooke said, and the player may end up deferring his enrollment. He will report immediately pitch for the Lowell (Mass.) Spinners, a Class A short-season affiliate of the Red Sox. The team begins its season Monday and finishes in September. It did help O’Linger’s cause that former Davidson baseball standout Gus Quattlebaum works in the Red Sox front office, although Cooke said he did not openly campaign with Quattlebaum to sign O’Linger.
While O’Linger will be an undrafted free agent, Davidson’s best hitter from the 2017 season will also get paid to play baseball this summer. The Baltimore Orioles drafted consensus All-American outfielder Will Robertson in the 30th round earlier this week and will likely place him in a rookie league soon, Cooke said.
O’Linger’s quirky personality enamored his teammates at Davidson. The right-hander who throws his fastball in the high 80s on a good day was prone to making outlandish claims, like saying Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton isn’t a good athlete or that Zaza Pachulia was the Golden State Warriors’ best player.
O’Linger also predicted Davidson’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance and its two wins over North Carolina in the past month. But no one ever has heard him publicly decree he was going to sign a professional baseball contract of any type.
“This one,” Cooke said, “surprised even Durin.”