BOWIE, Md. – It had to be a pretty neat moment for high Single-A Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado and some of his top players. He was about to tell three of his best players and three O’s top 10 prospects on Sunday that they were going to be promoted to Double-A Bowie. And outfielder Colton Cowser and infielders Coby Mayo and Connor Norby were going together to join the Baysox of the Eastern League.
“Berto, he kind of called us in and you kind of had a feeling like something was up,” Norby said yesterday during an interview at Bowie’s Prince George’s Stadium. “And then he was like, ‘You know, when is your off-day?’ We were like Monday is usually that day. He said, ‘Monday is not your off-day. You guys have to get to Bowie.’ We all got excited and started hugging everybody. It was a really cool moment. But I don’t think you can top Buck (Britton) with Adley (Rutschman), but every call-up is special.”
No, that may have been an all-timer when Rutschman got the call to go from Triple-A to join the Orioles and his skipper delivered that news.
But this was still pretty cool for the then-Aberdeen trio, which had also moved up together as part of a larger group from the Rookie-level Florida Complex League to low Single-A Delmarva late last year. And they started this season together with Aberdeen, helping to lead the IronBirds to a first-half division championship going 43-23 in the South Atlantic League.
“We all got called up together,” said Cowser. “We were in Berto’s office in Aberdeen and he said we didn’t have quite the off-day on Monday. We had to get moving down here and it was really exciting.”
Norby said the three players had talked about getting moved up at the same time, but they didn’t expect it would happen that way.
“We didn’t think it would be possible because there are a lot of things that have to go into place to make it all work," he said. "But it was a special moment. We got called in and told together. We went to Delmarva together. It’s been a fun journey for the three of us and I hope it continues to go that way. It was so cool though in that moment."
And the trio seems to be helping Bowie right out of the gate. Cowser went 3-for-3 with a homer on Tuesday night in his Double-A debut.
“It felt good. It felt real good,” he said of Tuesday’s game. “You know, (Tuesday), first time hitting here in Bowie in BP and felt pretty good and was seeing the ball well. And after the first at-bat, took a couple of close pitches and I was pretty confident of the strike zone. The guys are awesome here and welcomed us three in for sure. Really looking forward to the rest of the year.”
Bowie finished the first half going 27-42, but now with this group of three added to the roster is 2-0 to begin the second half as Bowie won big again last night 12-1 over Richmond. The Baysox have scored 21 runs in two games since these changes.
Cowser, the No. 5 overall draft pick by the Orioles last July, is ranked No. 4 on the O’s top 30 by MLBPipeline.com and No. 6 via Baseball America. In 62 games at Aberdeen, he hit .258/.385/.410 with a .795 OPS, 19 doubles, two triples, four homers and 22 RBIs.
Cowser had his ups and downs at Aberdeen and recently cut down on his strikeout rate a bit as he posted an OPS of .856 this month.
“As time went on, we went on a road trip and I just tried to get back to a 'see ball, hit ball' approach, and that is what it turned into,” Cowser said. “In the beginning of the year, I was taking a lot of pitches and taking a lot of close pitches. Getting called out for strikes and getting down in counts. As time went on, I thought maybe I was going to be a little more aggressive on pitches that were borderline and starting doing that. Was attacking pitches early on and it felt like it really started clicking.”
And Cowser said that 3-for-3 debut at Double-A was a nice start for him, but he pointed out he still may have been upstaged a bit on Tuesday night.
“It’s really exciting," he said. "I know (yesterday was) Gunnar (Henderson’s) birthday, so happy birthday, Gunnar. I talked to him last night after he hit for the cycle and I was like, 'Cmon man, you had to one up me.' You know we have a great (organization) right now, what they are doing and what they are preaching. You can tell it is transcending up through levels and it’s very, very exciting.”
Mayo is rated as the O’s No. 5 prospect by Baseball America and No. 7 by MLBPipeline.com. He hit .250/.326/.479 with an .805 OPS and 13 homers in Aberdeen.
“The fact I’m here right now is awesome,” Mayo said in the Bowie dugout. “The support we have in this system of each other and the trust they have in us is amazing and it’s something other (organizations) can’t necessarily say or do because they are not calling up their 20-year-olds to Triple-A and Double-A and all their prospects up pretty quick. So, it’s been an exciting few days.”
Norby, the club’s second-round pick last year out of East Carolina, was batting .237/.311/.425 with Aberdeen with a .736 OPS and eight home runs. He is rated No. 10 on the O’s list by MLBPipeline.com and No. 11 by Baseball America.
“I’m beyond excited to be here,” said Norby. “It’s a fresh start and it’s not. We’ve earned the right to be here and we’re all excited to be here. It doesn’t get better than this. Being in Double-A your first full year it pretty exciting. We have a great coaching staff and a great farm system in general. To keep moving up the ladder it’s awesome.”
And after showing some pop with Aberdeen, he thinks that can carry over for him with Bowie.
“I think it’s (power) come around so far," said Norby. "I don’t think about it, it’s just putting good swings on pitches. Need to continue to look for my pitch and try to put a good swing on it. When you go up and look for homers, that’s when you don’t hit them. It’s picking the good pitches to hit and hunting the heart of the zone, which is what we preach.”
Cesar Prieto hit a grand slam with five RBIs and JD Mundy homered and drove in four in Bowie’s win last night. Norby went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs and Cowser was 0-for-2 after his big game Tuesday, but he scored twice and walked twice. Mayo did not play last night for the Baysox.