Colton Cowser is a young Oriole working to learn and "laying bricks" for future success

When he got off to a sensational start to his 2024 season, outfielder Colton Cowser was showing for the first time that he might be a good big league player. Showing it, not in minor league games, but at the big league level.

But even he had to realize it might not always go as well as it was then, or he might not be able to make it look as easy as he did then.

Named the American League Rookie of the Month for March/April, he ended that period batting .303/.372/.632/.1.004 with six homers and 18 RBIs.

He ended April ninth in the AL in Wins Above Replacement among league position players.

But struggles would follow that torrid hitting stretch. While his OPS for this year of .740 puts him 13 percent above AL average, his OPS was .580 in May, .679 in June and is .490 so far in July.

In 84 games for the season, Cowser is batting .221/.309/.430/.740 with 13 doubles, a triple, 12 homers and 34 RBIs.

The ups and downs of the season is at work and the ups and downs for a young player at age 24.

Saying he has “learned something about himself” every day this year, Cowser is learning about the rigors of the MLB schedule, dealing with pitchers with fantastic stuff that lead to 0-fers and trying to work through the inevitable struggles all hitters face.

“Right now, it is plan and approach that I am fine tuning,” he told me during the recent homestand. “Getting pitched different is always an adjustment. Sometimes you think you got pitched a certain way and you look postgame and realize you didn’t get too many pitches to hit. I got some changeups on the corner maybe. Tip your cap, they didn’t miss in the zone.

“You talk about learning things about yourself, that is part of it. Understanding maybe I didn’t get pitches to hit today,” he said.

The O’s brass seems to believe in Cowser. They kept him in the lineup during some struggles and while he didn’t always play every day he has played a lot.

It could be that emergence of Heston Kjerstad, who hit a three-run homer Sunday, will take some at-bats away from Cowser or others in the outfield. Cowser had three starts on the road trip, but just one in Oakland.

The stats tell us one story and other metrics tell one too. He scores high in baserunning and defensive metrics. And he makes loud contact when he squares up the ball. He leads the Orioles in barrel percentage at 15.2 and ranks in the top six in the majors here. He is top eight in MLB in hard-hit percentage and top 14 percent in average exit velocity at 91.6 mph.

After 355 big league plate appearances, he is maybe reaching a point where is comfortable with, or at least understanding of, the struggles. And that manager Brandon Hyde is so far, for the most part, letting him work through them.

“You know I think they communicate that, maybe not verbally but you can kind of tell how lineups are going, things like that,” he said. “But I think, say you are not in the starting lineup, you have to take that and use that to take advantage of things you need to be working on that you wouldn’t have the chance to if you were starting that day.

“And also, you look at a stretch of ABs and looking at them in hindsight I think you can learn a lot. Say you are not striking out as much and you are putting the ball in play, kind of working through those things.

“Recently (offensive strategy coach) Cody Asche was talking to me and he said, 'This year is a year that will set you up for five years down the line.' That type of thing. Continuing to learn and laying bricks each and every day.”

He is building a foundation, he hopes, for both present and future success. Learning about how pitchers are pitching him, learning how to navigate the physical demands of the schedule, learning how to deal with the highs and lows of a big league season. Learning to deal with the times he either doesn't play, or hit much, or both.

“Understanding that certain stretches are going to help you further down the line in your career, is really important. And it’s something you have to as a player or you will continue to spiral,” said Cowser.

O's win road trip finale: The Orioles completed a 4-2 road trip with their 6-3 win Sunday in Oakland. They are 57-33 for the year and their .633 win percentage has them on a 103-win pace.

In the four wins on the road trip, they allowed zero, one, two and three runs. In the two losses they allowed seven and 19 runs.

Closer Craig Kimbrel went 4-for-4 in save chances on the West Coast. Since May 10, he is 2-1 with an ERA of 0.43 and 15 saves in 16 chances. Over 21 innings he has allowed just six hits and one earned run with five walks to 31 strikeouts. In this span he has allowed a batting average of .088 and OPS against of .287.

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez gave up three runs over six innings to improve to 11-3 with an ERA of 3.52. Rodriguez is on a pace that would produce 19.8 wins this year. If we round up and he actually got 20 he would be the O's first 20-game winner since Mike Boddicker in 1984.

With the Yankees loss last night, they fell three games behind the Orioles for the AL East.

About the All-Star rosters: Looking at some team All-Star totals last night, it sure looked to me like the O's got snubbed in the All-Star selections.

Here are the team tallies for All-Stars after the roster release last night.

7 - Phillies
6 - Dodgers
5 - Guardians, Padres
4 - Royals
3 - Orioles

Per a press release on the rosters, MLB made six AL All-Star picks. This is where the league steps in to make sure each team has a rep. Yet one of the six MLB picks for the AL squad was New York Yankees reliever Clay Holmes.

* Craig Kimbrel is 5-2 with a 2.16 ERA, 0.900 WHIP, 22 saves and 13.5 K per nine.

* Holmes is 1-3 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.306 WHIP, 19 saves and 9.3 K per nine.

Seems clear to me which player deserved the nod here.

By the way, the Orioles' Gunnar Henderson is the youngest AL All-Star and fourth-youngest in the game. The youngest All-Star at age 21, is San Diego's Jackson Merrill, who is from the Baltimore area. Merrill was selected by San Diego in round one of the 2021 MLB Draft, No. 27 overall out of Severna Park High School in Severna Park, Md. in Anne Arundel County. 

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