Imagine that you played nearly 1,000 minor league games, yet your phone was not ringing off the hook last winter when some players were scrambling for minor league jobs. But you eventually got one at Double-A Bowie with the Orioles. Then in June you got called up to the majors. Until then your MLB experience consisted of two games and six at-bats.
But that call to the majors lasted just five days. Then nine days after being sent back to the minors, you are designated for assignment. You clear waivers, go back to Double-A and put the finishing touches on a very solid year. Your phone rings and you get yet another call to the major leagues. This was one was pretty surprising. Heck, so was the first one.
That all happened this year to 29-year-old Corban Joseph, the younger brother of O’s catcher Caleb Joseph. He’s been a minor league lifer and when players so dedicated to the game and their careers get a shot in the majors, if your heart is beating at all, it is hard not to feel good for them.
He’s not a real-life Crash Davis, but Joseph has played in 1,054 minor league games. Last night he played in his 11th in the majors, ninth with the Orioles.
There was Joseph pinch-hitting with the bases loaded in the seventh and Chicago leading the Orioles 7-2. The Birds were a few outs from another lackluster loss. But Joseph worked the count full and, on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, singled to center to score two runs. With one swing, his MLB total of RBIs tripled to three. Again, hard not to feel good for a person and player like that. Joseph sparked a four-run rally and while the Orioles came up short yet again, he did all he could.
“Really just trying to get my timing to get a good pitch to hit,” Joseph said of his at-bat against White Sox right-hander Ian Hamilton. “Fortunate enough to get a fastball down the middle and put enough wood on it to get it up the middle. With bases loaded just try to simplify a plan. Trying to hit a ball up in the middle. If you get under the ball, it’s a sac fly and a basehit can score two.”
Joseph hit .312/.381/.497 for Double-A Bowie with 30 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, 73 runs, 68 RBIs and an OPS of .878. He filled up the stat sheet and was selected to both the Eastern League mid-season All-Star game and the postseason All-Star team.
At 29, he re-established a career. In the quiet of the Orioles clubhouse last night after defeat No. 105 he reflected on his 2018 season and thanked the staff at Bowie for helping him show his talent this summer.
“It’s been a blessing,” said Joseph. “Going back to even before the start of the year. This offseason, not really getting a lot of calls and you know getting a small opportunity over here. Just have tried to do the best I can with what I’ve got. Was fortunate to make the team in Bowie and had one of the best years I’ve had in my career.
“A lot of that is to Keith Bodie, who pushed me a lot, our hitting coach. Gary (Kendall, Bowie manager) pushed me to play every day. I can’t remember the last time I played 122 games. It was all around a fun year.”
A year that now leads him to no longer thinking about the possible end of his career, but what the 2019 season might hold for him. If the Orioles don’t bring him back and you would think they have plenty of reason to do just that, another organization certainly would come calling.
“Yeah, absolutely. I’m excited about next year,” said Joseph.
More about last night: The 2018 Orioles (42-105) are two losses from tying the 1988 Orioles for most losses in one season. At least, thanks in part to Joseph, the offense did get going last night. The Orioles have scored 11 runs the past two games after scoring 14 the previous six games.
When right-hander Luis Ortiz left his first MLB start after 1 2/3 innings with a hamstring injury, it was the latest short start by an Oriole pitcher. Over the past five games, Orioles starters have totaled 13 innings and four times went two innings or less. That is four times in five games. The O’s bullpen has been called on to pitch 31 innings in the same span.
The rotation ERA is 9.45 for the Orioles over the last eight games and 6.54 with just three quality starts over the last 17 games.
Center fielder Cedric Mullins had two hits last night and produced his first multi-hit game since Aug. 31 at Kansas City. Mullins was batting .122 in September before Friday’s game where he singled in the first and doubled in the ninth. He also reached on a walk and error, reaching base four times in five plate appearances.
Mullins talked to me recently about hanging in there during some of his recent struggles at the plate.
“I’ve always heard that when you first come up, there might be some struggles,” he said. “I started off pretty well and pitchers made adjustments. It’s a matter of me slowing the game, figuring out what their approach is to me and making adjustments off of that.
“It’s purely mental,” Mullins added. “You just have to always keep your head in the game and not let the amount of failure you’re having get in the way of future success. It’s a matter of continuing to push through and continuing to learn. There is a learning curve.”
On Friday, Mullins was named the Orioles 2018 minor league Player of the Year. Pitchers Keegan Akin and Zac Lowther are co-winners of the Pitcher of the Year award. Click here for more on all the award winners announced yesterday. They will be honored tonight at Oriole Park during a pregame ceremony.