The recent injury to Orioles shortstop Freddy Galvis opened the door for a young player to take over an everyday role with the major-league club.
Who is going to embrace that opportunity?
The Orioles recalled infielders Ramón Urías and Domingo Leyba for depth June 27. The club also brought up outfielder Ryan McKenna.
“We added two infielders just to get a little bit more flexible in the infield,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We have a couple of days off [July 1 and 5]. From the pitching standpoint, I think things can change day to day there. Obviously, things have changed a lot. Things happen unexpectedly pitching-wise, so sometimes you’ve got to scramble to make a move there.
“But with … three games in Houston [and then] a day off, we’re hoping that we can stay like this from a pitching standpoint at least for a little while. And we can add an extra position player, so go 13 and 13 and get three healthy bodies in here.”
Urias, 27, has major-league experience at shortstop and batted .246 with two homers and eight RBIs in big-league games this year prior to being called up June 27. Urias went 1-for-3 with an RBI on June 27 in his first game subbing for Galvis.
Leyba, 25, was claimed off waivers from Arizona on June 4 and made his debut for the Tides two days later. He is a switch-hitter who can play shortstop, second base, and third base. Leyba appeared in 34 major-league games (54 plate appearances) for the Diamondbacks, batting .149 with five RBIs, two doubles and a triple.
Many fans anticipated the Orioles recalling infielder Jahmai Jones, who was acquired by the Orioles from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Alex Cobb in February, once Galvis got hurt. Jones was hampered by an oblique injury earlier this season and is a candidate to earn a promotion to the Orioles at some point this year.
However, Jones is a second baseman and not a shortstop, so the team was hesitant to promote him because he needs more seasoning in the minors.
There will be competition for the job as the everyday shortstop in Baltimore.
“I think we’re going to play the hot hand, whoever is playing best there at shortstop,” Hyde said. “I don’t have a clear picture of what that’s going to look like. Going to give a few guys an opportunity and hopefully, someone grabs it and plays really, really well until Freddy comes back. But I don’t know the answer to that.”
As for Galvis, he is expected to miss up to two months with a strained right quadriceps muscle. He sustained the injury while running out a bunt single in the second inning of a 12-4 loss to the Blue Jays June 26.
“Hoping for the four to six weeks,” Hyde said. “It could be a little bit longer, just depending on how the rehab goes, how he’s feeling. … Really going to miss Freddy here for a while.”
Ryan Mountcastle Heating Up
Ryan Mountcastle is heating up and a potential Rookie of the Year candidate.
He has been one of the American League’s hottest hitters in June, batting .352 with nine home runs and 24 RBIs in 24 games. Mountcastle has also hit safely in 18 games throughout that stretch.
“I just see, especially with him, slowly improving just in much better strike zone management,” Hyde said. “Ryan went through a rough patch kind of early this season — very, very normal for a Year Two player, a young player, for the league to expose him at times and continue to pitch to weaknesses. Ryan’s done an amazing job of understanding, trying to make adjustments.
“It’s not going to be an overnight fix, it’s not going to be an overnight fix. It’s going to be hard and he is working hard at it, understanding the strike zone, because when he swings at strikes and he swings at pitches he can drive, good things do happen.”
On the season, Mountcastle is hitting .269/.309/.478 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs. He has not made any major adjustments but is simply getting more comfortable at the plate as he gains more experience as an everyday player.
“Honestly, I haven’t really been changing much out of my routine,” Mountcastle said. “I know how they’re trying to attack me and just trying to stay with my approach.”
Alexander Wells Shows Potential
Alexander Wells has emerged as one of the Orioles’ marquee prospects and is showing promise in the big leagues.
The Australian left-hander threw two scoreless innings on 43 pitches against Toronto June 27. He could provide another valuable arm out of the bullpen and perhaps emerge as a potential starter.
“With our bullpen being the way it is right now, having … Alex Wells was important for us to be able to get some guys that can give us some length in the bullpen,” Hyde said
Wells, the team’s No. 17 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was named the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2017 after going 11-5 with a 2.38 ERA for Low-A Delmarva.
Wells went 8-6 with a 2.95 ERA for Double-A Bowie in 2019. He started the season at Triple-A Norfolk this year after being hampered by an oblique injury. After struggling with the Tides in May (9.88 ERA), he settled down and posted a 2.45 ERA in June.
“I think that any left-hander that doesn’t have major league average velocity or above, command of the fastball is extremely important,” Hyde said. “It looks like he does have some deception in his delivery, which will be helpful.”
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