Kyle Stowers talks about additions of Henderson and Westburg in Norfolk

At Triple-A Norfolk, recently, Stowers' power got some help as he and the Tides had some pretty solid reinforcements. The club added and promoted infield prospects Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg up from Double-A Bowie.

Before he joined the Orioles his for his MLB debut in Toronto, Stowers was in the lineup for five Norfolk games with Henderson and Westburg. Stowers has now returned from Baltimore to rejoin Norfolk after the game on Thursday. But during his time with the big club at Rogers Centre, I asked Stowers about the additions in Norfolk of Henderson and Westburg.

“Man those guys are dynamic players,” he said before Wednesday’s game. “Super talented, great people to be around too and two of my good friends. I really enjoyed having them there and they had it going from the get. Gunnar hit a homer his first at-bat, Westy hit one his first or second game. They both looked really good.”

“There is a lot of talent up here and down in the minor leagues. Everyone is trying to do the best they can and continue to get better and hopefully put themselves in position to help this team compete for the World Series.”

Norfolk may have lost 14-5 to Syracuse last night. But it was not the fault of dynamic duo as they combined for five hits, four runs and two RBIs.

In his first 10 Triple-A games, Henderson is 11-for-32 and batting .344/.523/.594 for an OPS of 1.117 with two doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. Westburg has eight extra-base hits in eight games. He is 14-for-34 and batting .412/.429/.882 for an OPS of .1.311 with three doubles, two triples, three homers and nine RBIs.

Stowers feels that pair will be making a seamless move up to the Triple-A level, but said they will face some different challenges at the minors’ highest level.

“There were similarities (from Double-A to Triple-A). I think everyone in Triple-A was a little more mature. Generally added a pitch that they can use and you also had guys that had been in the big leagues and know what it takes and know what they want out of their outings. I think you have to be very confident with and have a solid approach because the guys you are going against have an approach against you.”

Stowers, who has made his own adjustments this year to cut down on his strikeouts, was impressed that Henderson moved up and still kept drawing walks. So far he has walked 11 times and fanned just five for the Tides.

“He doesn’t chase,” Stowers said. “I think he just knows his zone so well. He has such an impressive grasp of the strikezone and he doesn’t deviate out of it. That sounds so simple, but he has great vision and sees the ball really well. He narrows down his approach and it’s been really cool to see him from, when I met him in 2020 at an early camp, to where he is now, it’s just crazy. You know the sky is the limit for him.”

Last year, Stowers and Adley Rutschman were co-winners of the Brooks Robinson Award as the O’s Minor League Players of the Year. Henderson sure looks like the leader in the clubhouse for the honor this year with an OBP of .464 and OPS of 1.041 between Bowie and Norfolk.

“His numbers have been incredible. I imagine he’s going to keep it up and there is a lot of baseball to play. I hope he continues to have a special year,” said Stowers.

And he added he is impressed with Westburg’s all-around game, on offense and defense.

“He’s just solid," he said. "Very mature for his age, very under control. And I think he’s got some dog in him, he’s very tough. When the going gets tough, he gets going. I think he puts his head down, works hard and does it the right way. On defense, just makes the plays and has good range and can play all around the infield. Offensively has power to all fields, line drive approach and puts the ball in play. I think the world of those two as players.”

O’s win over the Rays: Since getting swept three in a row in a season-opening series at Tampa Bay, the Orioles are 3-1 against the Rays after Friday’s 1-0 win. It was the Orioles' second 1-0 win of the year, also they did that April 20 at Oakland. It was their first 1-0 win at home since July 14, 2018 versus Texas. It was their first 1-0 win over the Rays since Oct. 2, 2012.

The Orioles have now pitched five shutouts on the year with three coming against AL East clubs with one each versus the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.

Right-hander Dean Kremer allowed five singles in six scoreless on 82 pitches. Then the bullpen covered the next three innings between Félix Bautista, Cionel Pérez and Jorge López. López has not allowed an earned run over his past 11 games and 14 innings. He recorded his 10th save and his fifth of more than one inning. His ninth-inning ERA of 1.21 is the best among MLB relievers with at least 20 innings pitched in the final frame.

The Orioles continue to hold their own within the tough AL East. They are now 14-18 on the year against the division and they are 10-7 in the past 17 AL East games. They have gone 4-9 against New York, making them 10-9 versus the rest of the division.

Last year they went a combined 7-31 against Tampa Bay and Boston. With Friday’s win, they are 8-7 this year against those same two clubs.


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