TORONTO - The Orioles knew for a while that outfielder Anthony Santander and reliever Keegan Akin would leave the active roster prior to the team’s arrival in Toronto. To be decided was which outfielder might replace Santander in the lineup.
Kyle Stowers became the third top-10 prospect in the system to get the call, joining catcher Adley Rutschman and pitcher Kyle Bradish. They’ll be on the field together tonight for the start of a four-game series against the Blue Jays.
Manager Brandon Hyde got an extended look at Stowers in spring training and wants to check how the 2019 second-round draft pick handles the pressure and challenging at-bats against early Cy Young candidate Alek Manoah.
“I know he’s excited,” Hyde said. “It’s cool to watch young guys make their debuts, and this is going to be a great environment. He’s facing one of the best right-handed starters in the game right now. He’s swinging the bat extremely well in Norfolk and love the athleticism, how he plays defense, how he runs, so it’s a cool way for him to break into the big leagues and looking forward to watching him play tonight.”
The advice to just relax and treat it like any other game “is super unrealistic,” Hyde said.
“He’ll have some anxiety, of course, and he’ll be nervous, and hopefully he can transfer that into some good swings and help us out,” Hyde said. “But I want him to just enjoy it and relax as much as he possibly can and just do what he was doing in Norfolk.”
Stowers appeared in 49 games with the Tides and posted a .356 on-base percentage and .901 OPS with 16 doubles and 12 home runs.
“Just getting a lot more used to playing every single day. Last year was my first full season and it came with a lot of growing pains, so I’ve just been a lot more steady mentally, been able to flush at-bats and flush games, and be the same person every day. I think that’s been the biggest key for me thus far, because just haven’t been panicking if things don’t go well, and if things are going well, don’t get too high.”
Stowers’ mother, Sheri, fiancée Emma and future in-laws Mike and Denise will be cheering from the stands at Rogers Centre.
Right-hander Rico Garcia, summoned to fill in for Akin, returned from Tommy John surgery and registered a 1.93 ERA in 18 2/3 innings spread across three affiliates. He’s struck out 29 batters.
“Saw him throw a few bullpens in spring training,” Hyde said. “Off to a really good start this year, kind of climbed the ladder. Healthy, he’s got a little big league time. So, it’s not a young guy we’re bringing here, but a guy with some upper-level experience. Pitched in the big leagues.
“Rico’s stretched out a little bit. He can give us a few innings out of the bullpen. Traditionally been a strike thrower and he’s shown really good stuff in Norfolk. Hopefully, he can help us out.”
Santander and Akin should be back with the club after he returns home to start a weekend series against the Rays.
Players who aren’t vaccinated are forbidden from entering Canada.
“This is something that teams are going through when they come up here,” Hyde said. “We’re just excited to give Kyle and Rico the opportunity to be with us at least for the series, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Santander hit his 11th home run yesterday and went deep in back-to-back starts in Kansas City. He’s 11-for-37 this month.
“It’s a middle-of-the-order bat,” Hyde said. “He’s leading our team in home runs, swung the bat good in Kansas City, but it is what it is right now.”
Everyone on the coaching staff made the trip to Toronto.
Hyde said reliever Joey Krehbiel should be ready to come off the 15-day injured list close to when the right-hander is eligible.