A look at some batters off to strong starts at Double-A Bowie (O's win wild one)

Earlier this week when I was in Bowie, Md., to cover Kyle Bradish's first injury rehab start, I spent some time with Double-A Bowie manager Roberto Mercado to discuss his team's solid start to the new season.

It has been some weekend in Bowie with the Baysox winning Friday 5-4 over Altoona on a walk-off on John Rhodes' single in the 10th. Last night, Jud Fabian's grand slam in the last of the ninth was a walk-off winner 6-2. It was Fabian's second homer of the season and he's now batting .310 with a .944 OPS.

Bowie drew 7,159 fans on Friday and 7,988 on Saturday to Prince George's Stadium. 

Between the 2022 and 2023 seasons, the Baysox's increase in average home attendance was among the best in all of the minors and they are off to a good start at the turnstile this year.

Bowie is now 8-6 and through Friday's games had a plus-12 run differential ranked third-best in the 12-team league thus far. Bowie led the league with 77 runs scored and also with an .817 OPS. Bowie's team ERA of 4.34 was eighth-best in the Eastern League.

The Baysox have used three players at shortstop and in the middle infield in Frederick Bencosme, Collin Burns and Anthony Servideo.

In this entry, I wrote about Bencosme and his strong hitting start. He is batting .365 with a 1.026 OPS with three homers with 12 RBIs in 13 games. And his defense has been solid.

“He’s made huge strides there," said Mercado. "There are a few things we have been working on with Bencosme. At the end of the day he really wants to get better and is putting in the work. It’s been a pleasure having him."

The Baysox will soon see Baseball America's No. 11 prospect Samuel Basallo move behind the plate to catch some games after his throwing program to build up his arm. During the winter, he sustained a stress fracture in his throwing elbow. But he’s doing fine now and playing the field this week with some starts at first base.

While they wait for Basallo to get back there, Silas Ardoin and Connor Pavolony have been catching, two backstops the club likes. The Baysox have a strong catching trio.

Ardoin, 23, was selected in round four in the 2022 MLB Draft out of the University of Texas. In his first eight games, he went 7-for-28, batting .250 with a .752 OPS.

Pavolony, 24, is a seventh-round selection out of Tennessee in 2021. He is 8-for-26 his first eight games, batting .308 with an OPS of .919.

“Silas commands the zone really, really well," said Mercado. "That is something he’s done and in spring training he was getting on base at a high clip and he is continuing to do that.

"With Pav, he has been swinging the bat really well, making good swing decisions. When he gets his pitch, he’s been hammering it. Good start for those guys."

First baseman TT Bowens is off to a strong hitting start for the Baysox. In 11 games, he is batting .350/.409/.675/1.084 with four doubles, three homers and 14 RBIs. Bowens, 25, produced a .697 OPS last year between three teams and after the season had an OPS of .724 with four homers in 21 games in the Arizona Fall League.

“I think TT makes great swing decisions that really helps him,” Mercado said of Bowens, who has also made two starts in right field this season. “Almost to the point where it’s too good and he can be too selective. He’s got real power and he is showing that early this season.”

The 2020 MLB Draft was shortened to five rounds and the O’s signed Bowens as a free agent out of Central Connecticut State. He has hit 36 homers in his pro career in 948 at-bats.

On March 3, Bowens hit a three-run homer in spring training for the Orioles to break a 2-2 tie in the ninth as they won in Bradenton 5-2 versus the Pirates. It was a feel-good moment in camp and I wrote about that in this entry the next day.

The Baysox have a host of players they can use at first base to include Bowens and Basallo. Even outfielders Rhodes and Dylan Beavers could see time there, and so could infielder/outfielder Billy Cook.

The Orioles like to create defensive versatility on the farm, so we see players at Bowie playing multiple positions. 

Bowie completes a six-game series this afternoon at home with Altoona and travels to Richmond to begin a series on Tuesday.

Series even in K.C. - The Orioles almost let a 7-0 lead get away but in the end did not in a 9-7 victory at Kansas City last night. Baltimore scored seven runs in the second to knock starter Cole Ragans out after a 49-pitch inning. But by the seventh, a seven-run lead was down to one.

The Orioes had 15 hits, went 7-for-16 with runners in scoring position, saw six different players drive in runs and five had two hits or more. 

The Orioles are 13-7 now and a 1/2 game behind New York for first in the AL East.

Only five times in Orioles history have they had a better 20-game start to the season than 13-7, most recently opening 2017 with a 14-6 record. With Saturday's win, they extended their streak to 98 consecutive regular season series of at least two decisions without being swept, which dates back to their last sweep from May 13-15, 2022 at Detroit (0-3). According to Elias, this is the fourth-longest regular season streak in MLB history.

Craig Kimbrel pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to record his fifth save. For Kimbrel, it was career save No. 422, matching Billy Wagner for the seventh-most in MLB history, and he trails only Boston’s Kenley Jansen (425) for the most among all active pitchers. He is just two saves shy of matching John Franco (424) for the sixth-most saves all-time.

The Orioles escaped with a win and now can win this series this afternoon when Cole Irvin (0-1, 6.75 ERA) pitches versus right-hander Seth Lugo (3-0, 1.05 ERA). 

Bowie tweets: Click here to watch Fabian's walk-off slam at Bowie last night and here to get a better look at a huge crowd. 

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