Prospects down below remain on hold while Hyde figures out nightly lineups

The question inevitably comes in casual conversations or radio and television interviews.  And the phrase “pleasant problem” is the chaser.

The constant change in Orioles lineups, with players rotating in the field as if waiting for the music to stop and plopping down, is becoming a less familiar sight. We haven’t gone back to the ‘70s. They want wide margins of victory over wide lapels. But manager Brandon Hyde isn’t gonna fix what ain’t broken and he’s found an order that’s difficult to break up.

An infielder stocked with versatile players is beginning to solidify with Gunnar Henderson at shortstop, Jackson Holliday at second base and Jordan Westburg at third. The first base options remain Ryan Mountcastle or Ryan O’Hearn, the latter serving as designated hitter in the past three games before last night and six overall.

They’ve only played 13.

Jorge Mateo might be in the tightest bind because he isn’t used at third base. It’s pretty much middle infield, which is tougher to crack than a bank safe, or maybe a token appearance in center.

He made one last night in the top of the ninth and robbed Rhys Hoskins with an outstanding catch that culminated in him crashing into the fence. Austin Hays rushed over to get confirmation that Mateo survived it and to congratulate him.

Ramón Urías won a Gold Glove at third base in 2022, so at least he’s got that going for him. And he has a hit in three of his last four games, including last night's single after coming off the bench.

Colton Cowser stayed in the lineup last night, moving from left to right, and Hyde really could tinker today with the Brewers starting left-hander DL Hall. Hays, a right-handed hitter, can’t heat up if he keeps sitting, which is why it made sense to start him in left last night.

Hays is hitting into some tough luck but overall he just isn’t hitting, with his 0-for-4 night leaving him 2-for-32.

Cowser doubled in the first inning and homered in the fourth after collecting six hits in Boston and becoming the first Orioles player with 10 RBIs in a series at the historic ballpark, and only the seventh in history since it became an official stat in 1920, joining Reggie Jackson, Vic Wertz, Junior Felix, Raimel Tapia, Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Canseco.

“For me, he was a little too patient last year when he first got here and I thought he was falling behind in the count quite a bit and kind of feeling his way through at-bats,” Hyde said. “Now I just think he’s just being more aggressive on pitches that he can handle, and getting in little bit better counts. But also taking good swings when he’s got leverage counts.

“The understanding of the strike zone has always been there. Now, it’s more of him knowing when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive. And also, he’s staying behind the ball so much better this year.”

Cowser’s usually driving it to the opposite field, except for his mammoth three-run homer Thursday in the 10th inning. His first homer went over the Green Monster. His double last night shot down the left-field line.

“He’s got big power,” Hyde said, “and he’s got big raw power.”

The pleasant problem referenced earlier – and the subject came up again this week during a radio hit – is a Triple-A roster that’s holding more prospects who are putting up promotion-worthy statistics.

How do you keep them down on the farm?

The season has reached the mid-April point and it’s already a scalding topic. But it isn’t a stress inducer.

Mike Elias won’t sweat it. You don’t build this kind of talent pipeline and worry about clogs.

Heston Kjerstad and Kyle Stowers should be in the majors, but they’re two left-handed hitting outfielders and the Orioles aren’t running short. Cowser isn’t going anywhere. O’Hearn seems set as the backup at first and, yes, the first choice to DH against right-handers.

Kjerstad hit his seventh home run last night, raising his RBI total to 26, and he’s batting .396 with a 1.352 OPS. Maybe he can chase the Triple Crown.

Connor Norby has a .305 average and .949 OPS. As you might have heard, he’s a second baseman forced into the corner outfield because of Holliday. He made a sweet diving catch in right last night.

Batting from the right side worked against him with the Orioles wanting to left-handed hitting second baseman until Holliday was deemed ready. That’s why they signed Kolten Wong and later Tony Kemp

Coby Mayo homered in his first two at-bats last night and is hitting .386 with a 1.198 OPS. He’s also a corner infielder and, well, you know.

The best advice I can offer is, don't worry about it more than the front office. Injuries happen and open doors. Trades happen and open doors. Or prospects just keep pounding on it until the hinges burst.

A pleasant problem, indeed.

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