Westburg withstands delays to make impressive debut in 10-3 win (updated)

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde didn’t set up a meeting today with Jordan Westburg after the young infielder arrived at Camden Yards, his major league debut against the Reds still hours away. The choices were simple. Give him advice or give him space.

Hyde chose space.

“I try to be as relaxed as I possibly can with him,” Hyde said this afternoon. “I don’t think that anything I say is going to help him or hurt him. Maybe hurt him. But no, this is something they’ve dreamed about their whole lives, and this is something that’s been a goal since they were 8 years old.

“First day’s always a whirlwind, and a lot of stuff thrown at them, and you just kind of want the game to start for them and let them play.”

Westburg couldn’t play for an extra 15 minutes because of the precipitation that pushed back the start. His first at-bat came with two outs in the second inning, at the exact same time that more rain began to fall, increasing in intensity with each pitch following a standing ovation from fans who didn’t rush for cover.

Down two strikes, Westburg battled back to coax a seven-pitch walk. The rain let up considerably as he reached first base, then started again after a member of the grounds crew worked on the mound.

Nothing would be normal for Westburg after he received the news of his promotion. The spastic weather, which caused another delay at 8:22 p.m. that lasted one hour and 44 minutes, seemed appropriate for the occasion.

Westburg scored his first run on Austin Hays’ bases-loaded single following two more walks from Reds left-hander Brandon Williamson. His first RBI came on a bases-loaded, fielder’s choice grounder in the third. His first hit was a single into left field with the count full in the fifth.

Chants of “Wes-ty, Wes-ty” grew louder for the quiet rookie.

"It hit me pretty close to my heart," he said. "That was pretty cool."

Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann covered three innings out of the bullpen to earn his first win since May 8, 2022, and the Orioles claimed their 18th series opener with a 10-3 victory before an announced crowd of 13,077 at Camden Yards.

Westburg finished 1-for-4 after another fielder’s choice in the seventh and a bouncer in the eighth with the count full again, and the Orioles moved a season-high 19 games above .500 at 48-29. They also climbed within four of the idle Rays.

The Reds, making their first visit to Baltimore since 2014, have lost three in a row after their 12-game winning streak.

"It's a young player in his debut, you're just hoping he feels as comfortable as possible," Hyde said. "There's a lot of people watching him, and just wanted him to relax and play, and I thought he did that."

Westburg stayed calm in the second during the deluge. Not how he envisioned his first at-bat away from the minors.

"Pretty crazy, honestly," he said. "Felt like something out of a movie or something that you dream. Huge raindrops falling, just trying to focus on picking up the baseball. It was kind of crazy."

"His first at-bat, that was kind of a crazy one," Hays said. "We went through a delay there, it was pouring rain. I think he got to an 0-2 count and drew a walk. That takes a tremendous amount of patience, especially with the rain coming down, to be able to go 0-2 when you know you want that first hit. So, really impressed with the patience he showed in that at-bat."

"For that to be his first at-bat, it was not the ideal conditions," Hyde said, "and credit to him for working a walk there."

Only a few puddles remained in front of the dugout after the second delay when Ramón Urías singled with one out and Cedric Mullins walked to bring Westburg to the plate and the crowd to its feet again. Westburg avoided a Fernando Cruz fastball tailing into him and grounded the next one to rookie phenom Elly De La Cruz, who got the force at second. Westburg beat the relay, and Jonathan India’s throwing error increased the lead to 4-1.

The Orioles scored three runs in the fifth against Eduardo Salazar, the rally starting when center fielder TJ Friedl slipped and fell while tracking Anthony Santander’s fly ball. Urías had an RBI double and Mullins a sacrifice fly. A wild pitch nudged the lead to 7-1 but also cleared the bases with Westburg batting.

Salazar hung a slider and Westburg smacked it into left, eliciting more screams and hugs from the rookie’s parents, Paul and Christine, and wife Anna. Some friends and former co-workers sat behind the plate in Westburg jerseys and cheered every pitch thrown to him.

"A lot of firsts for him," Hays said. "Got his first run scored, first (RBI), first hit. We're really excited for him. He did a great job tonight.

"He's got good plate discipline, he's got some power, he hits the ball to all fields, and he's got a pretty good glove, too. I think he brings a lot to the table for us."

The reception from the stands overwhelmed Westburg.

"That was special," he said. "Just playing in a city I've never played in before and having the support of everybody that was here, especially in my first game, and trying to get rid of the nerves and slow the game down, just to have that support was really special."

Teammates gave Westburg the usual treatment in the clubhouse that required an immediate shower. Welcome to the family.

"It was fun, it was really cool," he said. "Everybody seems to have open arms and really accepting me in the clubhouse today made this day a lot easier."

A play in the field might have been Westburg’s most impressive moment of the night.

Kevin Newman lined a two-hopper up the middle that Westburg backhanded and flipped with his glove to Jorge Mateo for the force. Newman barely beat the throw to first after Mateo spun and fired. No double play, but a dazzling sequence.

"I'm sure he's done it quite a few times. He nailed it," Hays said. "Just shows he's comfortable and confident in himself."

The duo had a small collision chasing a ground ball up the middle earlier in the inning, making contact but avoiding a serious blow.

"We had a little miscommunication," Westburg said, "but somebody new playing with, I'm going to learn that he's a go-getter and he likes to go after everything. I probably should have gone behind him and let him field it. He's going toward first base already. I'll just learn from it."

The 28th comeback win broke a tie with the Reds for the major league lead, and it began with Hays’ two-run single after Cole Irvin fell behind 1-0 in the first.

Newman led off the first with a double to deep left-center field, a 405-shot off the wall that would have been a home run in an overwhelming majority of ballparks. He moved to third base with one out on India’s single, De La Cruz struck out looking at the third curveball of a four-pitch at-bat, and Spencer Steer singled into left for an early lead.

Urías made a diving stop along the third base line to rob Nick Senzel and keep the deficit at one run.

Irvin retired seven in a row before the tarp was unrolled again with Aaron Hicks batting in the third and Santander on first base following a leadoff single. The prolonged stoppage removed Irvin from the start, with Hyde giving the ball to Zimmermann, who tossed two scoreless innings before surrendering a two-run homer to Steer in the sixth.

Irvin averaged 14.4 pitches per inning for the Athletics last season, the fourth lowest in the majors among qualifying pitchers, according to STATS. He was averaging 18.9 with the Orioles before last night, when he threw 45 in his three innings. Nineteen came in the first.

The ERA fell from 7.71 to 7.18.

"I thought Cole was better tonight," Hyde said. "It was unfortunate that the outing got cut short."

Adley Rutschman drew a 10-pitch walk in the first, his 51st to tie for the American League lead, and lined a two-run single into center field in the seventh. Hays had big swings in the second and seventh, the latter producing an RBI double.

Big storms arrived.

So did Westburg. Nothing was bigger.

"Just a super pro with how he went about his day," Hays said. "He's with a lot of guys now who are in this locker room, he got to play with them in the minor leagues, so I think it's a very comfortable environment for him, and he was just able to enjoy the day and have fun with his teammates. Just a fun day for everybody for him." 

Westburg said he soaked in the atmosphere as much as he could, block out as many emotions as he could.

"Just try to lock in and focus on the game," he said. "But at the same time, I just wanted to look around and take in the atmosphere, the environment, the people. This is something I've never been a part of before, so it's really special.

"I felt like I did an OK job of trying to slow it down and breathing. On deck before my first at-bat was probably the fastest things were moving, especially when I started walking up to the plate and I just kept telling myself, 'Man, just breathe, just breathe.' But it turned out OK."

The ball from Westburg's first hit and the lineup card were stashed in his locker. What will he do with them?

"Frame them," he said, smiling, "and not touch them for a very long time."

* Cionel Pérez had his right hand wrapped in ice after catching a 104.5 mph line drive from India to end the game.

* The Orioles signed catcher Meibrys Viloria to a minor league contract and sent him to the spring training complex in Sarasota for workouts and a game progression.

Viloria, 26, has appeared in 103 games over five seasons with the Royals, Rangers and Guardians. He was 0-for-3 in 10 games with Cleveland this year.

He’s thrown out 19 of 56 (34 percent) runners attempting to steal in the majors and owns a career .361 on-base percentage in nine minor league seasons.

* Infielder Jackson Holliday and outfielder Heston Kjerstad were chosen to the All-Star Futures Game in Seattle.

Holliday, the first-overall selection in last year’s draft, is the No. 1 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline. Kjerstad, the second-overall pick in 2020, is 40th.

The game will air on Peacock at 7 p.m. on July 8.

* Single-A Delmarva catcher Samuel Basallo was named the Carolina League Player of the Week.

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