WASHINGTON – He didn’t make the Orioles' Opening Day roster out of spring training as he hoped, but Ryan O’Hearn didn’t have too long to wait to make his Orioles debut.
On April 13, for the final game of the home series with Oakland, the O’s called up O’Hearn. The 29-year-old lefty hitter got the start that day, went 2-for-3 and drove in three runs. You have a great memory if you remember the last player before O’Hearn to drive in three in his first game with the team was Jon Knott on April 17, 2007, at Tampa Bay. You have a great memory if you even remember Knott, who played in just seven games in his brief O’s career.
O’Hearn tried to make the club by swinging a hot bat under the Florida sun in March. He hit .375/.444/.650/.1.094 in spring training but began the year with Triple-A Norfolk.
But with the club about to face a series of right-handed pitchers he got the call.
O’Hearn said that based on his career where he has been often trying to make a roster or hang onto his roster spot with Kansas City between 2018 and 2022, he did not get down when he started this season on the farm.
“I think I was absolutely equipped to handle that,” he said of the disappointment of not making the big club to start. “I’ve been optioned many times. Been the last guy cut out of spring a few times in my career. You know, I think, in the moment it can feel like the end of the world, but you have to zoom out and realize it’s a long season. Just because you start in Triple-A doesn’t mean anything. It’s a lot more about where you finish than where you start.
"My mindset was to go to Norfolk and continue the work I was doing. Beautiful to get to play every day and get at-bats every day and put the things we worked on in the cage to the test. Get the confidence going.”
O’Hearn went to Triple-A and continued to hit, batting .300 with an OPS of 1.074 in nine games with four homers and eight extra-base hits for the Tides.
It was a carryover from his strong March.
“It was exactly the same things I was working on in the spring. Trying to maintain posture and give myself space to get to inside pitches and ultimately just cover more areas of the strikezone. Kind of figured out how to get the ball in the air a little better and knock on wood, just want to keep that rolling.
“The hitting coaches, including the guys in Norfolk, have done a really good job of helping me understand the feels I need to have to have success and hit the ball the way I need to help this team. I’m having fun with it and enjoy working with them.”
And in four O’s games he is 3-for-7 with a double and five RBIs. He is the 10th player in O’s history to drive in five runs over his first three O’s games. He is the first to do that since Manny Machado from Aug. 9-11, 2012.
“Just excited to be back in the show. Excited to be with a team that’s competing and fun to be a part of. Lot of energy and I am very blessed to be here,” he said.
O’Hearn added that he has learned, when he does get a callup, to not stress or put pressure on himself over every at-bat and every swing as if he could be sent back to the farm if he doesn’t come through.
“That doesn’t work in this game. That energy doesn’t really play here. I’ve looked at it as getting an opportunity and then try to have good at-bats. I came up my first time with bases loaded and less than two outs. That’s a beautiful thing, chance to come through. Chance to make an impact. Grateful for that and I feel confident out there right now," he said.
The latest shutout: The Orioles pitched back-to-back shutouts in Washington, a five-hitter behind Dean Kremer and a five-hitter behind Kyle Bradish. The two close friends got the rotation pointed in the right direction at Nats Park.
“Going behind him, I like to be out there and watch the game," Bradish said after last night's game of following his good buddy to the mound. "Because I know what he is trying to do, and it helps me prepare for the next outing. Seeing him having success, he’s a really good competitor so it was awesome to see him have that success (Tuesday)."
And for him, it was nice to be back after taking a liner off his right foot in Texas. He seemed to pick up last night exactly where he left off late last season. Then he had pitched to an ERA of 3.28 his last 13 starts and 2.76 his last eight.
“I feel like it is definitely something I was trying to build off of. And all the work I put in in the offseason is going to start showing. Just feeling really good," he said after throwing six scoreless on 92 pitches.
Adam Frazier, who hit a two-run homer in the win, said he has been impressed by some of the O's young pitchers.
“Facing them last year on the other side of things it was like, ‘Where did all these guys come from?’ So, I kind of knew we had some talent. I feel like a lot of them are just scratching the surface of what they can do. Learning how to pitch, they obviously have the stuff and think they can continue to get better," he said.
The O's team ERA dropped from 5.27 to 4.68 in this series. O's starters, going back to the second inning of the Grayson Rodriguez start on Sunday, have thrown 16 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
Overall, the O's staff has thrown 26 straight scoreless.
Now the team has won three in a row for the first time and also has won five of six and seven of their last nine games.
“I didn’t know we had won seven of nine," said Frazier. "We’re taking it one day at a time. But playing good baseball. Little bit better team baseball all around with the pitching and defense going with the hitting. Didn’t really hit much the past two days. But those are the signs of a good team if you can do all three well, you’re going to win more often than not."
At 11-7 the Orioles have moved into a tie for second in the AL East and they are tied for the third-best record in the AL.
A team playing .611 ball as the Orioles are now, would win 99 games over a full season.