Minor league notes on Norfolk's strong start and more

OAKLAND – While we are awaiting first pitch between the Orioles and Athletics tonight for Oakland’s home opener to start the road trip, here are a few minor league notes around Birdland.

The Triple-A Norfolk Tides are off to an 8-4 start, their best mark after 12 games during their time as a Baltimore affiliate since 2007.

Norfolk has scored 76 runs in the 12 games and has a run differential of plus-27, which is third-best in the International League that features 20 teams. The Tides lost via a 1-0 walk-off in Game 2 of Sunday’s doubleheader at Scranton to snap a five-game winning streak.

Right-hander Kyle Bradish was the winning pitcher in Norfolk’s Game 1 5-1 win, when he allowed just two hits and one run over five innings. Nick Vespi and Cole Uvila each threw a scoreless inning to complete the combined two-hitter.

Bradish is 1-0 with an ERA of 1.00 in two starts to begin his season. He is doing his part to get noticed for a call-up to the Orioles roster. Over nine innings, he’s allowed four hits and the one run with two walks, nine strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.67.

The Angels drafted Bradish in round four of the 2018 draft out of New Mexico State. They traded him to the Orioles as part of the four-for-one deal when the O’s got a quartet of right-handers for Dylan Bundy in December 2019.

In an offseason interview, Bradish told me he has had a bit of a velocity bump on the Orioles’ watch. It dipped a bit early in his pro career with the Angels but has come back strong since he joined the Orioles.

"Yeah, definitely," he said. "Coming out of college, I think I was maybe hitting 96 (mph) at my max, but usually sitting low 90s. In 2019, my first season with the Angels, I don't know what the deal was, but I was throwing slower than in college. Coming to the Orioles, I got a really good offseason program and then with the COVID shutdown (of 2020) I just really hit the weight room hard. And tried to clean up my mechanics a little bit and it paid off. There were multiple factors (to improve velocity), but having that COVID shutdown kind of gave you an extra offseason. So I tried to run with that and get as much work in as possible. Then cleaning up mechanics was another factor."

The Tides offense has been raking, we know, but the pitchers have been doing a pretty solid job, too. In the series at Scranton where Norfolk went 5-1, their pitchers recorded a 2.90 ERA (16 ER, 49 2/3 IP), with starters going 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA (6 ER, 25 IP) and the bullpen having a 3.65 ERA (10 ER, 24 2/3 IP).

Double-A Bowie lost an early five-run lead Sunday as Binghamton scored eight runs over the final four innings to beat the Baysox 9-6. Bowie is 4-4 and did win three of five in this series. The Baysox host Akron starting Tuesday night in a rematch of last year’s Northeast Championship Series.

Shayne Fontana hit a three-run homer Sunday for Bowie and Jordan Westburg hit a solo shot and it was his fourth home run in eight games. Westburg is batting .273 with an OPS of 1.021 and his four homers are tied with Norfolk’s Johnny Rizer for the organization lead. Gunnar Henderson’s bat is starting to perk up, as he went 5-for-13 over the last four games. For the year, he’s batting .286 with an OPS of .762.

High Single-A Aberdeen is 6-3. Outfielder Donta Williams, last year’s fourth-round pick out of Arizona, is batting .370 with an OPS of 1.056. He has driven in nine runs and has a 7-to-7 walk-to-strikeout ratio. First baseman TT Bowens is batting .310 with a 1.011 OPS and a 7-to-9 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Outfielder John Rhodes, with four walks and strikeouts, is batting .360. International signee Cesar Prieto is hitting .297 but has yet to draw a walk.

Two players that no doubt will get locked in further as the season goes on are highly rated prospects Colton Cowser and Coby Mayo. Cowser is batting .257 and has fanned 17 times in nine games. Mayo is hitting .200 to start the year.

Low Single-A Delmarva lost 2-1 at Lynchburg on Sunday in a game that featured just 10 hits combined. The Shorebirds lost via a walk-off for the second time in three days, but they still split the six-game series and are 4-5.

Outfielder Isaac Bellony, age 20 from the Virgin Islands, is batting .357 with an OPS of 1.062. Infielder Darreh Hernaiz is hitting .375 with a 1.037 OPS.

The Shorebirds open a home series tomorrow night at Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, Md., hosting Myrtle Beach.

Orioles and Athletics lineups (and notes)
Late rally Sunday provides momentum for road trip

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