Bowie — Gunnar Henderson had an concept. He and Joey Ortiz have been working within the batting cage this offseason, the form of run-of-the-mill course of that may turn out to be monotonous even to a 20-year-old early in his skilled baseball profession.
“Hey, Joey,” Henderson prompted. “You wanna play a game of horse off the tee?”
Ortiz didn’t have to be pressed, setting off a pleasant competitors between the Orioles infield prospects. That’s the character of their relationship: They’re pals, however they’re additionally teammates pushing one another towards the subsequent stage, with a watch towards Baltimore.
For now, they’re at Double-A Bowie, a part of a stacked infield. During pregame warmups earlier than the Baysox’s season opener at Prince George’s Stadium on Friday, Henderson, Ortiz and Jordan Westburg trotted out to 3rd, quick and second to discipline grounders. In the long run — an ever-nearing future — that trio might trot out collectively at Camden Yards.
As the Orioles started the season their season in Florida towards the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore’s faces of the long run started their season in Bowie. They haven’t shied away from these lofty expectations, both — the concept they could possibly be the saviors for a franchise mired in 100-loss seasons throughout its regular rebuild from the bottom up.
“If we can all come up at the same time, that goal of winning the World Series, the last game of the season, is next up,” stated Westburg, 23, a first-round decide within the 2020 MLB draft. “You don’t want to look at it right now because we’re at opening day in Double-A. There’s no reason to put that pressure on ourselves or start thinking about that. But ultimately, and as we start to get there, that’s gotta be our No. 1 focus.”
Before government vp and basic supervisor Mike Elias arrived, Baltimore’s farm system was devoid of a lot center infield expertise. Adam Hall, a second-round draft decide in 2017, appears on the crop of prospects round him now and is amazed.
Hall, 22, who began in middle discipline Friday regardless of his center infield expertise, is the Twenty seventh-best prospect in Baltimore’s group, in accordance with Baseball America. Around him in Bowie are extra prime gamers in Ortiz (No. 16), Westburg (No. 6) and Henderson (No. 4).
That inflow of expertise to the farm system lately provides stress on all of them. There are solely so many positions alongside the infield, which prompted Hall’s bump to the outfield Friday. Henderson began at quick, Ortiz at second and Westburg at third. But these gamers will all rotate, which Westburg considers a profit.
“We all have different skill sets,” Westburg stated. “We all realize that. We understand that all we can do to make each other better is push each other in practice, try to set the bar high.”
To Westburg, the 20-year-old Henderson is the “young buck” of the group, nonetheless gaining expertise on the fly. But Henderson may additionally have essentially the most energy between all of them. The 23-year-old Ortiz could possibly be the perfect defender of the group, making performs Westburg admitted he wouldn’t in the identical place. And Westburg, regardless of a couple of swings and misses, believes his skill to spray the ball to all fields units him aside.
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It’s these totally different expertise that assist them stay pals throughout a push to the massive leagues. They’re all hoping for an infield spot — and solely one in all them can play shortstop — however that versatility might land them at Oriole Park collectively.
The Bowie coaches lean into that competitors, although, even past what Henderson and Ortiz do on their very own within the batting cage two to a few instances every week.
During spring coaching, the prospects competed for who might have the very best exit velocity on batted balls. They participated in a house run derby utilizing Plyo Balls — a sand-filled ball made with a PVC shell. A foam ball machine threw overly exaggerated breaking pitches to them.
“The infield guys, we’re around each other every day, and it’s great to have that bond,” Ortiz stated. “The main thing I always say: Gunnar and Westburg are so good, it’s definitely nice to be able to compete with them, because it only makes me better.”
In a video convention with reporters Thursday, Elias stated he believed Baltimore was “close to getting back into the fight.” As he appears across the minors, the prospects cultivated by way of three 100-loss seasons in 4 years are nearing the massive leagues. Once they arrive, he hopes they’ll be able to make a right away impression.
That will probably be discovered down the road, when these gamers show themselves and earn these anticipated call-ups. But at the least for now, even when these extremely touted infield prospects are taking part in in Bowie fairly than Baltimore, their minds can’t assist however wander to the horizon — and what they could accomplish as soon as there.
“We all know we can win a championship together,” Henderson stated. “We all have the right mindset going into each game and each season. I feel like the group that’s coming up, we have an excellent chance to turn this thing around and bring a championship back to the Orioles.”