Jordan Westburg on what it's like to wait for your chance while at Triple-A

If there is one player on the current O’s roster that can tell the young group of talented players that will begin this new season at Triple-A instead of in the majors, how tough that can be, it is infielder Jordan Westburg.

Westburg, over the 2022 and 2023 seasons, had 714 plate appearances at Triple-A Norfolk and hit .283/.366/.533/.899.

After batting .274/.361/.508/.869 in 91 games during the 2022 season at Triple-A, he was a top 100 prospect heading into last season. Yet he didn’t begin the year in Baltimore. And he didn’t go back to Norfolk for just for a few games or a homestand or two. He didn’t debut with the Orioles until last June 26.

It was a long wait for him, but worth it to finally get to the majors and he was on the O’s playoff roster last October, playing all three games versus Texas.

But he indeed had a lengthy wait. He said in the Baltimore clubhouse yesterday that he hopes the group that was sent to the minors recently – to include Jackson Holliday, Coby Mayo, Heston Kjerstad, Connor Norby and Kyle Stowers - can look at him as someone who had a long wait to get there. But then ran with his chance when it finally came.

“I hope that’s how they view it. I really do,” said Westburg before the Orioles workout at Camden Yards. “I hope that none of them are discouraged. There is a lot of talent down there and guys who are itching at the bit to get up. It’s only a matter of time for a lot of those guys.

“I hope that is the message I can maybe portray. I don’t know if I’ve really said that to a lot of them but I’m sure they know that.”

But as the Triple-A at-bats began to pile up for him and the wait got longer, did Westburg get down at all or get impatient and/or frustrated? Did he find it hard to keep his intensity up? 

“I didn’t find that hard to do,” he said. “That is just me too. I’m going to focus on what I do day-to-day, I’m really not going to focus on what is coming in the future or what might come in the future. You want to focus on getting better today. And a lot of those guys are mature enough to do that same thing.

“So, I don’t know if they’ll think that way. There might be deep down a little bit of frustration, or you know questioning themselves or questioning decisions, that creeps in. That’s normal for everybody. We are all humans and not robots.

“But I think they are all mature enough to push those feelings down and keep their pedal to the metal and hopefully get up here at some point this year and help us win.”

Westburg hit .260 with a .715 OPS for the 2023 Orioles over 228 plate appearances. He had a .786 OPS against lefty pitching and .676 versus right-handers.

Now after that wait to join the Orioles, Westburg will get to run down the orange carpet tomorrow in front of a sellout crowd.

“Yeah, very exciting,” he said looking ahead to his first big league opener. “Danny Coulombe gave me some good advice. He said, ‘Never take it for granted.’ He compared it to clinching the postseason. It’s one of those things you don’t know how many times you’ll get to be a part of. So, I’m very thankful and feeling very lucky I made this club. There are a lot of good players who are here and who are not here. I’m going to try and make the most of it.”

Westburg, 25, is experiencing something that a lot of rookies can go through. They can kind of be a bit quiet when they first arrive in the majors as they show the veterans in the clubhouse their due respect, but then they become more comfortable. It can allow their personality to really show through and even help with their play on the field too.

“It’s a comfortable feeling (now),” he said. "I know that last year I was kind of a little bit scared to be myself. The rookie. And I had guys like (Aaron) Hicks, Haysie (Austin Hays) and (Cedric) Mullins next to my locker. So I wanted to make sure I was staying in my lane.

“This year I feel more comfortable. I know these guys more and I’ve bonded with them more. It makes it more fun to be here and to show up every day. Even late in the year when things can get monotonous, it keeps it fresh. Guys are always around that make you laugh and smile if you are having a bad day. Just a fun clubhouse."

Burnes ready to take the ball for the opener: Right-hander Corbin Burnes may be one of the best pitchers in the majors since the 2020 season, but he is 0-1 with an ERA of 6.30 the last two years in Opening Day starts. Both times the game was at Wrigley Field and Milwaukee lost both games.

Now after what he said was for him a productive spring, he's ready to throw the first pitch Thursday for the Orioles.

“I’m in a good spot," Burnes said yesterday. "These guys accepted me very quickly and it’s a good group of guys, very close knit. Easy to see why they did so well last year. Very welcoming to me. Now I’ll do what I can to add to what they did last year."

What about pitching the opener?

“It is always an honor to get the ball to start the season. Do your best to start on a high note. At the end of the day it’s one of 162 so you can’t put too much pressure on yourself. Hopefully I am making 35-plus starts this year and it is one of many," said Burnes, who is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in one career game against the Los Angeles Angels.

Since 2020, Burnes is 37-22 with 2.86 ERA (146 ERA+) over 622 1/3 innings with a 0.996 WHIP. 

Thursday, he makes his third career starter in an opener.

“Great honor – doing it three years in a row now. Always a fun day and always exciting. The first day of baseball season. We’ll feel the excitement, the fans will feel the excitement. All across America will feel the excitement of Opening Day baseball," he said. 

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