Cowser makes Orioles roster for Opening Day

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Orioles will have at least one rookie on their Opening Day roster.

Outfielder Colton Cowser found out after today’s 8-3 victory over the Twins that he’s going to Baltimore.

Standing outside the clubhouse after showering and putting on his street clothes, Cowser said, “I was just informed that I made the club. I’m excited.”

Cowser stopped, turned to a team official and asked, “Was I supposed to say that?”

“OK, all right,” he said after receiving approval. “I didn’t know.”

Whether he’d avoid a late cut also became an uncertainty for Cowser, who seemed like an early lock but fell into a 3-for-23 slump. He struck out both times today after entering in center field in the fifth inning.

“I think the last, probably, week or so, it’s hard not to think about it,” he said. “Today, especially, not that I didn’t care what happened in the game, but it was in the back of my mind probably the whole day today. Not that it got in the way or anything, but yeah.”

The total production and Cowser’s ability to play all three outfield spots earned him a job. He batted .304/.418/.717 with a double, six home runs, 13 RBIs, seven walks and 17 strikeouts in 18 games.

“I feel like the work was there, I felt like I had a really good spring,” he said. “Would like to cut up on some things, but overall I like the way I was aggressive, things like that.”

Cowser, the fifth-overall pick in the 2021 draft and the No. 19 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, made his major league debut on July 5, was optioned twice and batted .115 with a .433 OPS in 26 games. The Orioles kept him for two days in September and didn’t put him on the Division Series roster.

His play in the minors remained at a high level, including a .300/.417/.520 line in 87 games with the Norfolk Tides and a grand slam in the Triple-A championship.

He gets another shot at the majors beginning Thursday.

To be more successful, Cowser said, he just needs to “do all the things I did in spring, maybe not strike out as much.”

“I liked where I was at with my aggressiveness, my approach," he said. "I think that I did sort of fine-tune it a little bit toward the end here, especially yesterday’s game. Took some really good pitches from a quality pitcher. I think have a better understanding of what to expect this year going into it, whatever role that is. Just how to go about my business that way.”

Within the late skid at the plate was a 463-foot home run in Dunedin. But he was batting .478 with a 1.586 OPS on March 12, and the statistical tumble appeared to perhaps make him vulnerable.

He wasn’t worried.

“It’s spring, it’s early,” he said. “I think everyone’s kind of fine-tuning their approach. Kind of came out of the gate swinging really well, and then it got to the point where it felt like, because I was swinging well, I could hit everything, and then started swinging at a lot of pitches. I know today I struck out a couple times, but toward the end there it felt like I started to really fine-tune the approach and started feeling better.”

The euphoria hit afterward, with executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde waiting for him in the clubhouse.

“I’m excited,” he said. “Had the whole offseason to think about it, how challenging it was going to be. I’m just looking forward to whenever I’m called upon, I’ll be ready for whatever I have to do.

“It’s going to be cool, I’m going to soak it in, and then I’m going to do whatever it takes to stay up here.”

Cowser finished his interview and asked reporters to wait until he phoned his parents to post the information on social media. Just two minutes to break his own news.

To let the people closest to him know that a rookie will be jogging down the orange carpet.

Meanwhile, outfielder Ryan McKenna and infielder Nick Maton have been informed that they won’t make the club, according to a source. Both players are out of options and will come off the 40-man roster when the moves become official.

Tyler Nevin, also out of options, would head north as a backup corner infielder and outfielder unless the Orioles bring in a player from outside the organization. They haven’t finalized their roster.

McKenna was 5-for-37 and Maton went hitless in 23 at-bats. Nevin had another hit today and batted .333/.367/.474 in 23 games.

Nevin would provide some pop from the right side coming off the bench, an appealing quality with the Orioles expecting to see plenty of lefl-handers early in the season.

The official camp roster is down to 32 players with pitcher Jonathan Heasley optioned to minor league camp this afternoon. He allowed a run and four hits today in the ninth inning.

Jacob Webb apparently has made the club, the only potential snag being a new reliever.

Removing McKenna and Maton and having Félix Bautista, Kyle Bradish and John Means on the injured list whittles the roster to 27. Minor league catcher Michael Pérez will be reassigned.

The Orioles won their club-record 23rd exhibition game. Hyde said Grayson Rodriguez looked “his best” after tossing three scoreless innings.

“It’s awesome that he threw like that before we break,” Hyde said. “I thought he had all his pitches going after the walk to start the game, which I thought a couple pitches were probably on the plate. He was totally in command and had everything going, so that was great to see from him.”

Cowser stayed a slam dunk despite late slump
RHP Heasley optioned

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