BRADENTON, Fla. – Confirming what was already assumed, the Orioles are absolutely not worried in the least that Gunnar Henderson is off to a 2-for-21 batting start this spring. Henderson, considered the favorite to win the American League Rookie of the Year award and the consensus No. 1 prospect in the sport, is batting .095 with nine strikeouts.
“You know I just think he’s honestly pressing a little bit,” manager Brandon Hyde said this morning. “I didn’t see his game yesterday, I was at the other place, but I think he’s got a typical young person’s spring honestly. I just want him to relax and play. He’s such a good player, he’s going to be fine. I think he is just having young guy at-bats right now, he’s trying to get hits and I’m not worried about it all.”
After going 0-for-2 versus Detroit yesterday, Henderson is 0-for-13 his last five spring games.
Henderson told me recently he feels his swing is fine but that he is playing catchup in getting at-bats because he missed some time early in camp with a minor wrist issue. Hyde said his wrist is fine now.
“I didn’t get too many at-bats leading up to the games,” he said. “Pretty much all my live at-bats this spring have been in the games. Just working through that process. Just a progression thing going right now. Just need to see pitches and get as many at-bats as I can. But I feel comfortable in the box right now," said Henderson.
O’s closer Félix Bautista, who went 4-4 with a 2.19 ERA and 15 saves in 2022, will make his spring debut today after being slow played while he continued to rehab his left knee and strengthen his right shoulder. The Orioles are confident he will get enough innings in what is left of camp to be ready for Opening Day.
“Just want to honestly get him around the 25-pitch mark or less,” said Hyde. “But we’re just starting him, so he has a proper warm-up and it’s his first time out facing hitters. So, we’re just gonna have him hopefully throw that first inning and get him out there.
“It was more of him, I wanted him to know exactly when he was going to pitch, at 1:05, then having to worry about anything. Just want him to have a consistent warm-up.
“He won’t be an opener Opening Day. This isn’t a precursor for anything we are going to do during the season,” Hyde joked.
Hyde said Ryan O’Hearn, who is trying to earn a bench role on this team, is still dealing with knee soreness.
“It’s improving, (but) it’s still pretty sore. It’s going to be a few days, I think. It’s just swollen, a bone bruise there. We’re not worried about anything (long term), wanted to make sure he’s healthy to go out and play,” Hyde said.
Heston Kjerstad hit his third homer of the spring Monday against Atlanta and that ties him with Austin Hays for the team lead. Among players with more than three at-bats, his 1.500 OPS leads the team. The kid is making a strong impression in this camp, said Captain Obvious.
“I had never seen him play before and the road that he has had the last couple of years and what he’s done. You can see why they took him when they took him. This guy’s got a big, huge bat profile. I know he feels great right now, that’s the main thing. Can really hit,” Hyde said.
I asked the skipper if Kjerstad playing in the majors this year is within reach for him.
“I think it’s been done before, so I wouldn’t put anything past it. That’s very, very challenging to do. But you never know,” he said. Kjerstad seems likely to begin this season with Double-A Bowie.
Hyde said some regulars will start to play more after tomorrow's off-day. Players will begin to play in back-to-back games and play for longer stretches of a single game.