Kjerstad understands role with Orioles and why it's drastically different than Triple-A

Heston Kjerstad sat at his locker yesterday, slumped in his chair and looking at his phone. He smiled when a visitor approached and asked for a few minutes.

He did the same thing the previous day. Being in or out of the Orioles lineup doesn’t influence his mood.

Kjerstad was making his second start since the Orioles recalled him on April 23. He played right field that night in Anaheim and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and he grounded out as a pinch-hitter for Ramón Urías in the 10th inning on April 26 against Athletics fireballing closer Mason Miller.

The organization’s No. 4 prospect, ranked 29th in baseball by MLB Pipeline, mostly has just sat. At his locker and on the bench. And without a word of complaint.

“It’s where the game works right now with the lineup,” he said. “I’m just doing the best with my preparation. Stay ready, whether it’s a pinch-hit late in the game or whatever they need from me. Just staying ready with my cage work and everything.

“I know I’m not playing every day. You’ve just got to make it work and you’ve got to be ready to help the team because any AB or any moment you have can help the team win the game.

Kjerstad was tearing up Triple-A pitching with a .349 average, 1.176 OPS, four doubles, 10 home runs and 30 RBIs in 21 games. The Orioles called up a hot bat but didn’t intend to put the sizzle in their daily lineups.

The team’s plan for Kjerstad was explained to him, and he only had to look at the roster or around the clubhouse to understand the complications.

“I kind of knew what I was stepping into and they talked to me, too, on, ‘You’re not going to be able to play every day and hopefully you’ll transition into an everyday role further on in the season,’ and so forth,” he said.

“That’s the way it works when you’re on a really good team like this. We’ve got really good players at every position, so to be able to have a guy like me off the bench is really awesome, and no place I’d rather be than here.”

Attitude and overall makeup grade just as highly as talent with these prospects and young guys who graduated from that status. It’s part of the draft evaluation.

Kjerstad avoids social media platforms and doesn’t know the level of fan frustration and fury when he isn’t playing. He smiles again when he’s told about it.

“It’s good to have support and everything like that,” he said. “I definitely want to be in the lineup every day, but it’s a team sport. We’ve got to do anything we can to help the team win.

“We all have a role on the team. Not everybody can be in the spot they want to. You’ve got to be in the spot that helps the team most, and for me, that’s all I’m doing. Whatever they need me to do, I’m the guy for the job.”

The Yankees are starting left-hander Carlos Rodón this afternoon and the Reds are starting lefties Andrew Abbott and Nick Lodolo in the last two games of the weekend series in Cincinnati. Kjerstad probably will be the guy on the bench. But he was in right field last night instead of Anthony Santander, who was hitting .213/.289/.426, and he went 1-for-2 with a single and hit by pitch.

Santander fouled out as a pinch-hitter and is 5-for-38 since his three-double game April 20 in Kansas City.

* The Orioles could reinstate Kyle Bradish from the injured list later today and start him against the Yankees. They could let Cole Irvin pitch on normal rest. They won’t use John Means before Friday.

So we’re probably left with Bradish-Irvin-Means, Irvin-Bradish-Means, or Bradish-Means-Irvin. This is working under the assumption, and it’s dangerous around here, that Albert Suárez moves to the bullpen for long relief or if outs are needed late in games and he can bring some heat.

Irvin hasn’t allowed a run in his last 14 1/3 innings.

The lefty walked out of the clubhouse yesterday in uniform and with his glove, suggesting that he was throwing a bullpen session that pushes him back to Friday or Saturday.

Fun, isn’t it?

The Orioles must remove a pitcher for Bradish. Yennier Cano and Keegan Akin are the only relievers with options after Dillon Tate was sent down. Yohan Ramírez hadn’t pitched since April 23 in Anaheim before working the ninth last night and retiring the side in order – Juan Soto (strikeout), Aaron Judge (lineout) and Giancarlo Stanton (grounder).

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