Westburg honored, Hays stays out of lineup and other notes

Westburg in the cage

Orioles infielder Jordan Westburg was named the American League’s Player of the Week after batting .478 (11-for-23) with a .913 slugging percentage, two doubles, a triple, two home runs, eight RBIs, a walk, five runs scored and a stolen base in six games.

Westburg led the majors in batting average and OPS (1.413), tied for the lead in total bases (21) and ranked second in slugging. He tied for the AL lead in RBIs and tied for third in on-base percentage (.500) and hits (11).

The Orioles are on an award roll with Colton Cowser winning it last week.

This is only the third time that the team’s had back-to-back recipients. Eddie Murray won it on Sept. 13-20, 1981. Don Baylor was honored on Aug. 10, 1975, followed by co-winners Jim Palmer and Ken Singleton on the 17th.

Westburg is batting .457 (16-for-35) during a nine-game hitting streak. He’s batting third tonight in Anaheim, where the Orioles begin a three-game series.

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Orioles pregame notes on Wells' elbow injury, bench players playing, and Hyde's talk with Holliday

wells pitching black

KANSAS CITY – Tyler Wells sounded confident this afternoon that his stay on the injured list will be brief.

Exactly how brief is the question.

Wells remains shut down with inflammation in his right elbow. An MRI didn’t show any structural damage, which is the best news.

“I feel really good,” he said. “I take pride in three things, and that’s being a great teammate, my work ethic and being a good pitcher. Right now, I’m really working hard with the medical staff, with the strength and conditioning staff, and really just make sure my body’s in a good place, that we’re doing a lot of hard work. And after this stint, I come back better than what I was before.”

Wells said the club consulted “multiple doctors” in the organization.

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Another look at how Suárez came to the Orioles

Suárez pitching white

KANSAS CITY - Albert Suárez didn’t fall into the Orioles laps. They tracked him, tried to get him, stayed persistent and were rewarded. This wasn’t about luck.

Well, maybe just a little.

A leg injury put Suárez back on the market last summer. The Orioles caught a break more than a falling star. Opportunity aligned with availability.

They had taken some swings at the right-hander in the past and wouldn’t be caught looking this time.

“We pounced on him,” Mike Snyder, the Orioles’ senior director of pro scouting, said of the minor league deal agreed upon in September. “It’s always nice to get some offseason shopping done early.”

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A longer look at Orioles' bullpen usage and construction

Dillion Tate

The media tends to play its own games during its baseball coverage, and Wednesday afternoon at Camden Yards provided the latest opportunity. A darn good one, too.

Money doesn’t exchange hands. It’s more about wondering, debating and disagreeing. Tossing around ideas like a backyard catch.

How many innings would Albert Suárez work in his first major league appearance in seven years and first start in eight? And, really important here, who’s the long reliever if he’s knocked out early?

The last one didn’t come into play. Suárez tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings – yeah, I wanted to see him complete the sixth – and manager Brandon Hyde didn’t have to worry about extensive coverage.

(Except from the media, of course.)

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Over six years later, Albert Suarez was back in the bigs, pitching the Orioles to a win

O's celebrate win

It has been an eventful home season for the Orioles. They began it by scoring 11 and 13 runs their first two games this year at the Yard. They had two walk-off wins at Camden Yards heading into yesterday’s game.

Now Oriole Park is home of the mound where 34-year-old right-hander Albert Suárez returned to the big leagues. He was last in the majors in 2017 with San Francisco and yesterday made his first big league appearance in 2,395 days.

Yes, it had been a minute, if over six years is that.

This game was special for Suárez, who spent time the last five seasons pitching in Japan and Korea. The Orioles signed him last Oct. 12 and he would get another shot to once again make a big league roster.

He had some impressive moments for the club in spring training and showed velocity he didn’t show with the Giants in 2016, when his fastball averaged 92.0 mph and a year later when it was at 93.5.

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Suárez makes impressive debut, Mullins hits walk-off home run in 4-2 win (updated)

Suárez makes impressive debut, Mullins hits walk-off home run in 4-2 win (updated)

Albert Suárez walked into a mostly empty Orioles clubhouse this morning with a smile on his face and a determination to work the room.

Suárez approached Dean Kremer, who stood up and hugged him. Yennier Cano and Ryan O’Hearn came over to embrace him. He moved on to Grayson Rodriguez and Craig Kimbrel, cut across to the other side and made a direct path toward Colton Cowser, who paused his conversation with a broadcaster.

That was everyone. Nothing left to do except go back to his own locker and prep for his first major league game in seven years.

These guys knew him from spring training but were unsure after he was reassigned in late March if they’d interact again except maybe a rehab assignment. They’d be coming to him. That was the likeliest scenario on April 17.

The Orioles selected Suárez’s contract, putting him on the 40-man roster, and watched him earn the right to stick around. He unpacked his bags and locked up the Twins, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings and celebrating Cedric Mullins' first career walk-off home run in a 4-2 victory before an announced crowd of 15,860 at Camden Yards.

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Hyde explains decision to start Suárez

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The season is 18 games old and Albert Suárez has already made it back to the majors.

A fast promotion after an absence dating back to 2017.

The Orioles chose Suárez over left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, selecting his contract this morning from Triple-A Norfolk. He’s starting against the Twins, with the Orioles trying for the sweep.

“We needed a starter today and he is in line and we feel like this gives us our best chance to win against pretty much a right-handed club with some lefties sprinkled in there,” said manager Brandon Hyde.

“Loved the way Albert threw the ball in spring training for us. Pitched all the way right 'til the end until we set the roster. He had an outstanding camp. Strike-throwing ability, sits in the mid-90s, showed really good secondary stuff pitching against a lot of A lineups in spring training.”

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Suárez selected for today's start

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The Orioles selected the contract of right-hander Albert Suárez this afternoon and he’s starting the series finale against the Twins at Camden Yards. He’s working on normal rest after making Friday’s start with Triple-A Norfolk.

Catcher David Bañuelos was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. Bañuelos flied out last night as a pinch-hitter in his major league debut.

Suárez, who’s wearing No. 49, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2017 with the Giants. His last start was Sept. 23, 2016 in San Diego.

The Orioles reassigned Suárez on March 22, the same day that they also cut Jackson Holliday, Coby Mayo and Connor Norby. He’s made three appearances with Norfolk, including one start, and allowed 10 earned runs (11 total) and 19 hits in 15 1/3 innings. Suárez has walked one batter and struck out 17.

Suárez, 34, signed a minor league deal with the Orioles on Sept. 15 after he spent the past five years pitching in Japan and Korea. He walked two batters and struck out 19 in 15 2/3 innings in spring training.

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More on Orioles roster cuts and pending decisions (tonight's game cancelled)

Colton Cowser gray

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Orioles pared their camp roster to 38 players this afternoon. The cuts are presented for everyone. Who’s made the club isn’t as transparent.

The media isn’t alone in the dark. Colton Cowser, Ryan McKenna and Tyler Nevin haven’t learned their fates, mainly because the front office is checking on external options with contract opt-outs arriving today.

Cowser is baseball’s version of a slam dunk, but he’s waiting for official word.

“You never know,” he said. “Just going to continue to work and continue to do what I’m called upon to do.”

There isn’t much more that Cowser can do, with his at-bats and defense setting him up for fourth outfielder duties.

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Henderson happy to stay at shortstop, Hyde impressed with Kimbrel's changeup, Nevin notches another hit (O's lose 3-2)

henderson throws over judge opcy

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Talent times have changed with the Orioles, and the proof showed again tonight when substitutions in the sixth inning included Coby Mayo at first base, Jackson Holliday at shortstop and Kyle Stowers in center field.

Not the typical replacements in a road exhibition game.

Holliday subbed for Gunnar Henderson, who led off and played the position that now belongs to him in 2024. Sharing is caring, but Henderson can hog it.

Manager Brandon Hyde confirmed it to the media this afternoon. Henderson won’t shift between short and third. Precisely what last year’s American League Rookie of the Year wanted to hear.

“That’s what I was drafted as and what I played my whole life growing up,” Henderson said, “so I’m looking forward to just getting some consistent playing time there.”

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Orioles and Red Sox lineups in Fort Myers

Colton Cowser gray

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The 20-win spring training Orioles play their penultimate road game tonight against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park.

Albert Suárez makes his fifth appearance and third start, and he needs to avoid the one disastrous inning that has marred his last two games and maybe impacted his chances of going north.

Suárez has logged 11 1/3 innings and allowed eight runs and 13 hits with one walk and 16 strikeouts. He was charged with five runs in the seventh inning of Friday’s game against the Rays in Port Charlotte.

Gunnar Henderson is leading off and playing shortstop. Jordan Westburg is the third baseman and cleanup hitter.

Colton Cowser is in center field. Tyler Nevin is the left fielder and Kolten Wong is the second baseman.

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Checking on Kremer, O'Hearn and more in today's exhibition game against the Rays (O's lose 7-2)

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Dean Kremer jogged from the dugout to the mound today for the bottom of the fifth inning. He got another up. And he got the chance because he was cruising.

Kremer retired nine batters in a row and he wasn’t done. With Albert Suárez ready in the bullpen, Kremer threw all three of his pitches for strikes and Francisco Mejía flied to center field.

Now, he could sit down after registering his longest outing of the spring.

Ten in a row were retired since Kremer hit his second batter of the day. He allowed one run and two hits in 4 1/3 innings, with one walk and three strikeouts.

In four exhibition starts, Kremer has surrendered six runs and 12 hits and struck out 11 in 12 1/3 innings.

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Reliving relief possibilities for Orioles on Opening Day

Keegan Akin white jersey

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Orioles aren’t close to deciding the 26 players who fit on their Opening Day roster. The majority, perhaps. But too many battles are short of completion.

In an eight-man bullpen, Mike Baumann seems to have gone from candidate to solid lock with 4 2/3 scoreless and hitless innings. The only baserunner reached on a walk, and he’s struck out five batters.

The velocity is up. The rhythm in his delivery is better. He’s out of minor league options.

He’s on the roster.

If we’re compiling a list of Orioles who enhanced their break-camp chances, I could go with Baumann first unless I flip-flop him with outfielder Colton Cowser or left-hander Keegan Akin.

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Some players worked on specific and targeted plans to improve their games

ryan o'hearn hits orange

After spending about a week at spring training, one impression that struck me is how hard some players worked over the winter to get better. And it’s not just the hard work they put in, but that much of it is very specific, very targeted, and there is a clear plan at work. 

It is one of many things this organization is doing well right now. They take good players and make many of them better. Heck, they have taken some little-known players and some that once looked like longshots to make and/or help the team and turned them into All-Stars.

That has happened over the last few years for relievers Félix Bautista and Yennier Cano. Both were 2023 All-Stars for the Orioles.

Bautista’s first pro year was 2012 with Miami. The Marlins released him in 2016. On Aug. 4, 2016 the Orioles signed him. Through 2018 on their watch he never got out of rookie ball. In 2019 and 2021, he walked nearly six batters per nine innings on the farm. That same pitcher had a 3.5 walk rate and 1.85 ERA in 2022 and 2023. In the big leagues.

Cano in 2022 gave up 23 runs in 18 major league innings. A year later he started the season lights-out with the Orioles, was an All-Star and had a 2.11 ERA.

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Orioles spring training leftovers for breakfast

Albert Suarez 2024 spring training

SARASOTA, Fla. – The first wave of John Means’ news in camp arrived on the first day, with executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias indicating to the gathered media that the former All-Star was a month behind the other starters and probably would begin the season on the injured list.

Nothing with the elbow that qualified as a setback. Just a lengthy delay in clearance to begin his throwing program.

At that time, the Orioles seemed to be aiming for an early April return to the rotation.

The next splash came earlier this week with manager Brandon Hyde confirming that Means wouldn’t pitch in an exhibition game.

The club is arranging live batting practice outings for Means, who also could start in simulated games on the back fields. But he’ll need to go on an injury rehab assignment before the Orioles activate him.

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O's may have found a pitcher in Suárez, is another hanging out in that clubhouse?

Albert Suarez 2024 spring training

SARASOTA, Fla. – As we watched right-hander Albert Suárez emerge it seemed out of nowhere to fan seven Philadelphia Phillies in three scoreless innings yesterday in Clearwater, we could wonder further if there is another to come out of nowhere in that clubhouse?

Suárez got 12 whiffs on 23 swings while touching 97.5 mph on the radar gun.

Brandon Hyde was rather impressed.

"He really threw the ball extremely well," said the Baltimore skipper. "I'm really impressed with his strike throwing ability, big-time life to his fastball. He was throwing his fastball by good major league hitters. He's got four pitches he throws for strikes, and he's got command of them. It's going to be fun to watch him. We didn't know a whole lot about him, and he's come in and thrown 97 with good secondary stuff, so really impressed with him today."

Is lefty Ronald Guzmán next to surprise us?

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Not much roster clarity for Orioles

Kyle Stowers black jersey

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Orioles break camp in less than three weeks, proving again that spring training moves just as fast as the offseason.

Are we any closer to figuring out the 26-man roster? Not really. The club hasn’t made a particular move that serves as a spoiler.

We know that Sam Hilliard fell out of the outfield competition quickly, returning to the Rockies on a waiver claim. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias gave us more to think about by signing pitcher Julio Teheran and second baseman Kolten Wong to minor league contracts.

It’s an absolute possibility that the Orioles bring both players to Baltimore, Teheran perhaps in long relief and Wong as this year’s version of Adam Frazier – at least to begin the season. Frazier lasted through all of it rather than serve as a placeholder.

Jackson Holliday says, “Hold my non-alcoholic beverage.”

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Pregame notes on Henderson's debut, Povich's Sunday whiff rate and more

Cade Povich Bowie 3

SARASOTA, Fla. – After missing the team’s first 10 games – and their 9-1 start – Gunnar Henderson will make his spring training debut today as the Orioles host a Minnesota Twins split squad at 1:05 p.m. He's playing shortstop and batting third.

Henderson has been rehabbing a sore left oblique, an issue that came up late in his winter workouts at home while long-tossing. The Orioles have been careful to nurse that along, and now the 2023 American League Rookie of the Year is ready to take the field.

“He’s doing great,” manager Brandon Hyde said this morning. “(Has) taken some live at-bats a couple of days ago and had kind of a normal workday yesterday and is cleared and ready to go.”

Hyde is not worried about Henderson feeling any pressure to produce or exceed his ’23 stats.

“Gunnar is so driven that sometimes you have to slow him down a little bit. He has got incredible makeup, unbelievable worker and plays the game as hard as anybody. You know you want him to enjoy it a little bit, but he is so easy to coach and so fun to watch play.”

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