It has finally happened. The Double-A Bowie Baysox are rolling. It happened later than we thought but the Baysox are making up for lost time now.
After going 27-42 in the first-half Eastern League race, Bowie has surged into first place in its division in the second half, going 20-8 heading into Thursday’s game. The Baysox have a few scorching hot hitters and a bullpen that has posted a 2.48 ERA in the second half after posting a 4.78 ERA earlier.
Among the hottest hitters is shortstop Joey Ortiz, the club’s fourth-round pick in 2019 from New Mexico State. The Orioles' first three selections in that draft were Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Kyle Stowers, and they took Ortiz as their fifth pick.
He got off to a very slow start this season after undergoing season-ending left shoulder surgery last June. He ended this June batting .206 with a .596 OPS. Then he got on fire for the Baysox in July and produced a batting line of .404/.438/.674 with an OPS of 1.112.
“He had an elite shoulder injury that is difficult to come back from, and I think he has finally found his strength and his groove,” said Matt Blood, the Orioles' director of player development. “And he’s been making little adjustments all along the way. This is the player we saw last year before he got hurt. Probably a combination of getting fully healthy and strong as well as making adjustments to the league and the pitching he’s seen this year. Joey and that Bowie team are playing fantastic.”
Heading into Thursday’s games, Ortiz was batting a sizzling .479 (23-for-48) during an 11-game hitting streak with six doubles, a triple, four homers and 17 RBIs.
MLBPipeline.com rates Ortiz as the Orioles’ No. 15 prospect, while Baseball America puts him at No. 23.
His Bowie teammate, outfielder Colton Cowser - the club’s No. 1 pick, No. 5 overall last year - also is riding a hot bat right now. He has a seven-game hitting streak during which he is batting .452 (14-for-31) with three doubles, two homers and nine RBIs.
The 22-year-old lefty hitter moved up a level this season from high Single-A Aberdeen to Bowie and increased his stats too. With the IronBirds in 62 games, he hit .258/.385/.410/.795. In 26 games with Bowie he is batting .337/.475/.641/.1.116.
“His final month or six weeks in Aberdeen was strong," Blood said. "He’s just a really good player, and sometimes good players can have a month or so when they struggle. He was going through some adjustments, and that is what the minors are for and about: being challenged. Sometimes along with challenges comes struggle, and then sometimes growth follows.”
Is he tipping pitches again?: The question came pouring in on Twitter and other social media outlets when Triple-A lefty DL Hall struggled on Tuesday night. Was he tipping pitches again?
A week after Hall allowed six runs in 2/3 of an inning in a game at Memphis, this week he allowed six runs (five earned) in four innings at home against Nashville. Hall gave up five homers in the two games. Are other teams seeing something they are taking advantage of again?
“I have not heard that,” said Blood. “I think pitchers, they sometimes have bad days, and there is a lot to be learned from that and his experience will be good for him to learn from. It doesn’t get any easier when you get to the major leagues.”
Hall is 2-6 with a 4.87 ERA through 17 games with Norfolk.
More O's minor league notes:
* Jackson Holliday, the Orioles' 2022 first-round pick, is likely to make his professional debut next week, maybe around mid-week, in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League. The No. 1 overall pick in the draft is going to make many starts at shortstop, of course, but may also make a few at second base. But no worries here. He’s a shortstop. With the FCL schedule ending Aug. 23, it’s possible that Holliday could move to low Single-A Delmarva for more games with the Shorebirds' season running through Sept. 11.
* The Orioles are hoping that Bowie right-hander Noah Denoyer can return to pitch before August is out. He has had some elbow discomfort and was briefly shut down. In 16 games this year between Aberdeen and Bowie he is 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.
* The Orioles also hope right-hander Carter Baumler, who has been dealing with right shoulder inflammation, will return before August ends as well. Baumler returned to the mound this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, recording a 1.54 ERA in four Delmarva starts.
* A couple of O’s draft picks made their pro debuts on Thursday in the FCL. Catcher Silas Ardoin, their fourth-rounder out of the University of Texas, went 0-for-0, walking three times. Their second pick, outfielder Dylan Beavers, taken No. 33 overall out of Cal, went 0-for-1 with a walk. Non-drafted free agent Max Costes, who played for the University of Maryland and for Gilman School in Baltimore, was 0-for-3.
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