Here is a whole batch of minor league news and notes for today. And we add some news about draft picks as well.
* Double-A Bowie left-hander Keegan Akin will return to the Baysox rotation tonight. Akin left his start on June 26 with groin tightness after he had pitched four innings. He never went on the disabled list, and the injury turned out to be a minor issue. He returns tonight with an 8-5 record and 2.63 ERA over 15 starts. He ranks second in the Eastern League in ERA.
During my recent visit to Bowie, Baysox pitching coach Kennie Steenstra said this about Akin: “He has a nice live fastball and throws low-to-mid-90s, and has a nice ability to locate the ball down in the zone but also come up the zone and get some swings-and-misses and foul balls with that pitch. His slider has come a long way this summer. His changeup has been kind of a work in progress. Last year at this time his changeup was probably better than his slider, but it’s flipped around to where right now his slider is probably more comfortable for him. The plan now is try to get all three working at the same time. and then you are pretty close to a finished product.
“He’ll show a quality changeup, but he hasn’t been able to show them both on the same night very often this year. It’s been one or the other, and most of the time it’s been slider over the changup. There have even been nights when his fastball command has been a little off, but he finds a way. All of a sudden you look up and it’s the sixth or seventh inning, and he’s only given up one run.”
* The Orioles’ 2018 first-round pick, prep right-hander Grayson Rodriguez made a solid pro debut on Thursday in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He started and threw a scoreless inning with two walks and one strikeout. Rodriguez was throwing his fastball mostly from 93 to 95 mph, touching 96, and he kept the ball down in the zone. Rodriguez will pitch on a starter’s schedule, going every fifth or sixth day in the GCL. His next outing could be two innings.
* Right-hander Cody Sedlock, the Orioles’ top pick in the 2016 draft, threw a 30-pitch bullpen session this week and felt good. He made just three starts early this year for Single-A Frederick, and then went on the DL with a right shoulder strain. He gave up 15 runs (14 earned) over 9 1/3 in those three games. He’ll continue to progress back toward rejoining an affiliate, throwing more bullpens and then live batting practice.
* Double-A Bowie outfielder Austin Hays, out since May 24 with an ankle bone bruise and tendinitis, still spends some time in a walking boot but should shed that completely soon. He told club officials he is pain-free and will soon see a specialist to get final clearance to return to baseball activities.
* Single-A Frederick right-hander Ofelky Peralta went on the DL on June 21 with right elbow tendinitis. He is expected to return to the Keys sometime this season. The 21-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic is 3-6 with a 6.22 ERA in 12 games.
* Outfielder Lamar Sparks is out for the year. He had right labrum surgery in early June while playing in extended spring training. The 19-year-old Sparks was the Orioles fifth-round pick in 2017. Last summer he hit .241 in 42 games in the GCL.
While on the subject of surgeries, I believe I neglected to report earlier that Single-A Frederick first baseman Alex Murphy had season-ending surgery early this year due to a torn ACL. Murphy was the club’s sixth-round pick in 2013 out of Baltimore’s Calvert Hall College High School and is from Monrovia, Md. Murphy was the Player of the Year in Maryland in 2013. Both Sparks and Murphy should return for spring training.
* The Orioles moved right-handed pitcher Matthias Dietz from Single-A Delmarva to Frederick on Wednesday, and right-hander Luis Perez took his spot in the Delmarva rotation. The 23-year-old from the Dominican threw six scoreless on five hits with six strikeouts Wednesday in his Shorebirds and full-season ball debut.
Earlier this year Perez pitched for short season Single-A Aberdeen and was 1-0 with a 0.56 ERA in three games. Over 16 innings he allowed just four hits with five walks and 14 strikeouts.
“He threw the ball very well in extended (spring training) and very well in Aberdeen,” Orioles director of player development Brian Graham said. “He was our first choice to move up to that spot when we moved Dietz to Frederick. He throws strikes. He’s got a quick arm and uses his fastball well with a sharp slider. He’s a fastball, slider, changeup guy. He’s 90 to 92 with his fastball. He’s a fun guy to watch, who competes and throws strikes and will give them a chance to win when he starts.”
Speaking of good pitching at Delmarva: The Orioles’ 2017 top pick, lefty DL Hall, and lefty Alex Katz combined on nine no-hit innings for Delmarva last night. But with the score 0-0, it was not officially a no-hitter and would not become one, as Delmarva did not score in the last of the ninth. But Hagerstown got a bunt single and run in the 10th to post a 1-0 win in which Delmarva had just two hits.
So, no no-no and not even a win. But Hall has been a pitcher on a roll lately, allowing just one earned run in 20 2/3 innings his past five games. He has reduced his season ERA from 3.93 to 2.82.
The Orioles’ 2018 second draft pick, Oregon State shortstop Cadyn Grenier made his professional debut for the Shorebirds, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts from the two-hole. He fielded his position without incident, converting six plays on the night, including assists on all three outs in the eighth.
Speaking of draft picks: Today is the final day for big league clubs to sign their 2018 draft picks. The Orioles are still working to finalize a deal with their third-round pick, Arkansas right-hander Blaine Knight. It still seems very likely that this deal gets done, but it was not expected to take this long. So it’s not over until it’s over, as they say. A team with the record of the 2018 Orioles needs to get Knight, who went 14-0 with a 2.80 ERA this year in leading Arkansas to the College World Series finals. The slot amount for the No. 87 overall pick is $663,200. The Orioles still have that full slot amount remaining, plus more than $400,000 additional available from their total draft pool of $8.754 million.
The Orioles officially have signed and announced the signings of 28 draft picks. That does not include pitcher J.J. Montgomery, their seventh round pick, who has agreed to terms, or Knight. The club is also likely to get Florida Gator outfielder Nick Horvath, taken in round 25. They could add to this total as well before today’s 5 p.m. ET signing deadline.
Manny speaks: MASN’s Gary Thorne interviewed Manny Machado before the game on the telecast last night. Machado expressed his love for the Orioles and his teammates. But asked if there is a chance he stays in Baltimore, he said, “At this point very doubtful, but you know, there is always hope. There is always hope.” It sounded somewhat like a goodbye.