His stay here this time could be potentially very short and he is not on the active roster, but infielder Joey Ortiz, one of the Orioles' top 100 prospects, is in the clubhouse today. He is on the taxi squad for tonight’s game with Pittsburgh.
Acting manager Fredi González - working as skipper of the Orioles tonight while Brandon Hyde attends the graduation of his daughter Aria from Syracuse University - explained the situation.
González said reserve outfielder Ryan McKenna is dealing with a back issue. The Orioles are hoping he will not need to go on in the injured list, but if that changes, and with a day game on Sunday, Ortiz is here just in case. It's essentially a 24-hour taxi squad role while the O's gather more info on McKenna.
Earlier today, Ortiz said it’s a thrill to be back in the O’s clubhouse in any role.
“Yeah, it’s great," he said. "Everyone is playing well. They’re winning, and it’s definitely something I want to be part of.”
Added to the 40-man roster for the first time last November, Ortiz made his major league debut April 27 and was with the Orioles in Detroit for four games over four days, which included a rainout and a doubleheader.
He played second base in his first big league game, in which he had a two-run single into right field and a sac fly for a three-RBI day in the Orioles' 7-4 win over the Tigers.
“Definitely was a lot of nervousness and anxiety but it was great to, you know, finally have a childhood dream come true," he said, recalling his debut weekend. "My family was there and my girlfriend was there, all the people I care about, to watch me, and it was just great, honestly."
Don Baylor is the only other Oriole to record at least three RBIs in his debut. Baylor did it on Sept. 18, 1970 against Cleveland, but his last RBI was a walk-off single in the 11th inning. Ortiz is the first to do it in regulation.
"Well, that's pretty good company," O’s manager Brandon Hyde said at Comerica Park that day.
A fourth-round draft pick for the Orioles in 2019 out of New Mexico State, Ortiz is ranked No. 87 in the top 100 right now by both Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com.
I asked him today how the top prospects at Norfolk look at the potential call-ups this year. With the Orioles chasing a playoff spot, they could get a quick call, as Ortiz did for that Detroit series, and then have to go back to the minors in short order. They have to be ready for anything, and to help the Orioles in the short term or maybe over a longer period of time.
“As far as I’m concerned, I know I just have to be ready, and I know everyone else feels the same way," he said. "Just be ready when our name is called to do whatever the team needs.”
Ortiz overcame an injury on his way to the top 100 lists.
At the end of June last year his OPS at Double-A Bowie was only .596. He may have still been feeling some effects of the left labrum surgery that ended his previous season in June 2021. But when he got it going last season, his bat was sizzling.
After July 1 and through the end of the 2022 season, Ortiz batted .352/.416/.610 and led the minor leagues in hits, with 101, and with 175 total bases. His 1.026 OPS ranked seventh.
Those numbers included his first move up to Triple-A late last August. And he carried that into his Triple-A start this year, batting .320/.391/.524/.895 in 26 games with Norfolk. He played with the Tides last night in Jacksonville, and today here he is in Baltimore, ready to be activated should the Orioles need him. Its been a work in progress for him over several seasons, overcoming an injury, having a huge second half last year and picking up where he left off this year.
Now he's a top 100 talent on the verge of more - possibly more consistent - big league time.
“Absolutely. I feel like all the work I put in since I’ve been with the Orioles has been leading me here to this point," Ortiz said. "It’s just a lot of testament to the coaches around me and the people around me pushing me to get better.”
Ortiz worked hard to overcome surgery and make the 40-man roster, and later top 100 lists. And the coaches appreciate the effort.
“You know guys are pushing you (on the O’s farm) and they want you to play well," he said. "Gives you confidence to know that everyone wants you to succeed. It’s a good feeling, for sure."
And so has hitting in a Norfolk lineup that is scoring 6.88 runs per game. The Tides hold the best record in the International League at 27-9.
“Oh man, it’s crazy," Ortiz said of the surging Tides. "I feel like, one through nine, pitchers are, like, 'How do we pitch this lineup?' Every guy is a threat and we’ve had such a fun feeling there, winning so many games.”