Wells finally gets second start, Norby gets noticed, Holliday just seems to get it

SARASOTA, Fla. – Tyler Wells has done most of his work on back fields and away from media fixated on Grapefruit League games. His only start before today was March 1 in North Port, when he shut out the Braves for two innings and faced only six batters after a single and double play.

Twenty-three pitches, 17 strikes and 11 days until his next appearance.

Manager Brandon Hyde said earlier today that Wells remains in the starter competition and should be accumulating the rest of his innings on main stadium fields.

“Try to go four innings today, 60-ish pitches,” Hyde said. “We’re definitely building him up. … It’s important he gets these next few starts in.

“I think he’s thrown the ball really well this spring. Looks like he did in the first half this year.”

Dean Kremer started Saturday in North Port, Corbin Burnes started Sunday in Sarasota, Julio Teheran faced the Yankees yesterday in Tampa, Wells goes today, and the Orioles are listing Cole Irvin for Wednesday and Grayson Rodriguez for Thursday. Maybe an indicator that rotation candidates are done with live batting practice or simulated games.

“I think the majority of them, yes,” Hyde said. “There’s a couple where we might not, but the majority of them, yes.”

Connor Norby isn’t in today’s lineup but likely will come off the bench again.

Norby delivered a run-scoring single yesterday in the ninth inning, in only his sixth game after being held back in camp with a sore oblique. The system's No. 7 prospect is 5-for-11 with a double and two walks.

Each swing seems like an extension of Norby’s 2023 season, when he slashed .290/.359/.483 with 40 doubles, three triples, 21 homers and 92 RBIs in 138 games at Triple-A Norfolk.

“I think he can really hit,” Hyde said. “I love the way that he drives the ball to right-center like he did yesterday. He’s a really, really confident hitter. He’s got power potential, he covers the plate, he loves to hit, and I think he’s going to be a really good major league hitter.”

Norby has played some left and right field but is mainly a second baseman. The Orioles could focus most of his development at one position, as they seem to be doing with Coby Mayo at third, or consider whether he might have the tools to expand his defensive resume.

“We have so many good players right now that it’s hard, honestly, to move guys around because I’ve got guys playing all over the place already,” Hyde said. “I’m just trying to find him at-bats. I think that his bat is going to get him to the big leagues and we’re playing him at second base right now. He’s played a little bit of corner outfield in Triple-A last year. Whether we’re moving him off second or adding some things, I think we probably will, but right now I just want to get him comfortable at second because he missed those first couple weeks.”

Norby, a second-round pick in 2021 out of East Carolina, was excluded from the Triple-A All-Star team and lost out to Jackson Holliday for the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year award. He would have been an easy pick in past seasons but might not be the runner-up in 2023 because of Mayo and catcher Samuel Basallo.

“For me, the way he swings the bat, if he is under the radar he shouldn’t be, because he can really hit,” Hyde said.

Norby has tough sledding in the Florida sunshine with the depth at second base that includes Holliday, Jordan Westburg, Jorge Mateo, Ramón Urías and Kolten Wong. Prospects can put up numbers and still get sent down.

“Bottom line is, there’s going to be guys going back to Triple-A that had really good years at Triple-A. That’s just where we are,” Hyde said.

“That’s a great thing. Maybe not for them at the time, but for us as organizational depth, it’s enormous. And those are going to be hard conversations, but that’s the way our roster looks right now and their time’s going to come. It’s just, you’ve got to be patient a little bit. But that’s when your major league team is healthy and has got a lot of depth. Whether guys have options, no options, playing time, everyday at-bats, those types of things are all conversations that we have going forward.

"You want them to know that they're still a big part of this and they could get a phone call tomorrow and be starting the next day in the big leagues. And that's realistic. As much as it's harder for people to hear they're going down to Triple-A, you've got to try to keep them motivated, stay positive with them. I think our guys for the most part have gone down with a great mindset. You want those guys to put up big numbers in Triple-A, you want them to show that they don't belong there. That's what I tell them. Force the front office's hand. And our guys have done a great job. They've put up big numbers in Triple-A. It's awesome."

Holliday hit a grand slam Sunday in Dunedin and singled twice yesterday in Tampa. He’s earned a day off at home.

Holliday was in the clubhouse this morning and worked out as usual, again available if any media needed to grab him for a quick interview. He’s been around the sport his entire life, going to ballparks with his father, Matt, and handles the attention as smoothly as a ground ball.

“I think Jackson’s just taking it as it is,” Hyde said. “He’s playing as hard as he can. It doesn’t seem like he’s in awe of the setting of being asked a lot of things because probably he saw people getting interviewed when he was growing up, and I think that’s a huge help, knowing that you’re in the spotlight but you don’t need to be nervous about it or scared about it. It’s just part of the day.

“I don’t know how he’s handling social media and that kind of stuff, but from my brief conversations with him or watching him play, you can’t tell that he’s putting a lot of pressure on himself, and that’s incredibly impressive for somebody that just turned 20.”

Holliday is 10-for-31 with two doubles, two triples, a home run, five RBIs and two stolen bases in 10 games. But he’s also struck out 12 times and drawn only one walk.

The kid can’t be perfect.

“He’s going to have some games where he struggles. That’s just going to be part of it,” Hyde said.

“How he deals with that is another part of growing up in the big leagues and part of growing up as a professional baseball player. I haven’t been around him enough to see any sort of prolonged struggle and see how he handles it, but that’s going to happen.”

Wells gets tighter grip on starter spot, Orioles o...
Orioles lineup vs. Rays in Sarasota

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