BOWIE - For Double-A Bowie infielder Jordan Westburg, seeing his career advance three levels on the farm this year - from low-Single-A Delmarva through high Single-A Aberdeen and now on to Bowie - was a nice achievement. But to hear him tell it, learning to deal with the struggles he experienced along the way in moving up levels was pretty important as well.
Westburg, the Orioles’ No. 6 prospect, has had a very strong year. He’s hit .285/.389/.479/.868 with 27 doubles, five triples, 15 homers, 74 runs and 79 RBIs between the Shorebirds, IronBirds and Baysox.
But Westburg had initial struggles each time he moved up. In his first nine games with Aberdeen, he was batting just .206. After his first six with Bowie, he was hitting .136.
But then he got locked in at both stops. Last week, as Bowie was pushing to wrap up a playoff berth, he hit .393 (11-for-28) with two doubles, a homer and three RBIs in seven games.
“I mean 120 games brings a lot of learning lessons and a lot of failures,” Westburg said before last night’s game at Prince George’s Stadium. “But I think that this year has taught me more than anything to not perceive failures as me losing. Moreso, looking at them as learning lessons and ways I can grow and better myself. I think I’m just more professional in every sense than I was this time last year.
“It’s been nice to be healthy all year, which has been a blessing. I’ve been able to stay on the field a lot. The more you play this game, the better you will get. So long as you can handle the failure, as it is a game of failure.”
Westburg said it’s been a fun ride for him this year through three teams and three levels. But the highlight is probably what is happening right now as he plays for Bowie in the Double-A Northeast Championship Series.
“I think this week will probably stick out the most,” he said. “Not to say the games before this week didn’t mean anything, but we have a chance to win a championship here. I think everybody is excited about that. It’s just exciting, emotional baseball. Something I haven’t experience since college baseball at Mississippi State. This is going to be fun. No matter what happens this week, it’s just going to be fun.”
The Orioles selected Westburg, 22, with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Mississippi State. This year, he’s played with some of the other top O’s prospects that Birdland hopes will lead to a better future for the Orioles in Baltimore.
“It’s pretty special,” Westburg said. “There have been a lot of people moved up quickly and a lot of people are in different places than where they began. It just gives you a sense that as long as you’re producing, you have unlimited opportunity in this organization, and it’s pretty special to think of it that way. It’s also cool to see guys like myself and Gunnar (Henderson) that started in low-A and now we’re in Double-A. That usually doesn’t happen.
“There is a special group within this organization. There is so much talent, so much opportunity that you’d be blind not to see it and want to go for it.”
Baysox lose Game 2: The Baysox lost 8-5 to Akron on a soggy Wednesday night in Bowie and now trail the best-of-five championship series two games to none. Game 3 is at Akron Friday night and Bowie now must take three in a row to win the Double-A Northeast Championship Series.
Ace right-hander Grayson Rodriguez gave up a season-high six runs (five earned) on six hits over 2 2/3 innings. It was a tough night for the youngster who went 9-1 with a 2.36 ERA this year between high Single-A Aberdeen and Bowie.
Late afternoon rain delayed the start of this game by about an hour. Did any of that mess with Rodriguez and/or his pregame routine?
“No. It’s easy to use that as a crutch, but Grayson had his regular routine in the locker room,” Bowie manager Buck Britton said postgame. “He came out (and), yeah, the conditions weren’t perfect, but I know Grayson is not going to use that as an excuse either. Tough night, but the guy has been really good for us all year.
“I just think he was falling behind guys early. And this team, you have to give them credit, man. They have a lot of young hitters that are aggressive on fastballs. If you leave them out over the middle, they do a nice job of putting barrel on them.”
A four-run third inning allowed Akron to open a 6-1 lead. Bowie was held to one hit on Tuesday, and through six innings last night, the Baysox had just two hits. Britton felt his hitters have contributed to their lack of runs in the series.
“I think, if you look at the last two nights, something we really preach is the swing decisions. I think we’re expanding the zone, especially early, getting ourself into tough counts,” Britton said. “And maybe guys are just trying to do a little too much. We emphasize we don’t need a hero. Pass the torch. But when you are struggling as an offense, somebody wants to be the guy to get it going, and that leads to chases. We’ve done a poor job of staying in the strike zone. Something we had done really well all season.”
But Bowie, thanks in part to some late-game shoddy defense by Akron, put up two runs each in the seventh and ninth innings last night. Britton feels that could provide the Baysox some momentum when the series resumes.
“Absolutely,” he said. “That is probably what I am most proud of - how we finished that game. Just got to find a way to use that energy we had from the last third of that game and start off from pitch one.”