SARASOTA, Fla.—A year ago, DJ Stewart was hoping that 2018 would be the year he made it to the major leagues. The Orioles’ No. 1 draft choice in 2015, Stewart hadn’t lived up to the team’s expectations for him.
Stewart stayed through much of spring training and went to Triple-A Norfolk, hoping his stay wouldn’t be a long one. It turned out to be a full season with the Tides, and not a very satisfying one.
He batted just .235 but did have a .329 on-base percentage. Stewart hit 12 home runs and had 55 RBIs. He also 11 steals in 15 attempts.
Stewart was home in September when he was summoned to Baltimore. He played in 17 games, hitting .250 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.
This spring, his goal is to stay with the Orioles for the entire season.
“Obviously, it’s a different clubhouse,” Stewart said. “There’s a lot of different guys in here. This year it’s more open, guys competing with guys in here.”
The 25-year-old Stewart seems different, too.
“The biggest difference is just knowing that I can do it,” said Stewart, who’s batting .333 in eight games this spring. “I got up there last year and showed that I could play, and knowing in my mind.
“You always think, ‘How’s it going to be when you get up there?’ You always have it in your head, ‘How’s it going to go?’ That’s the biggest thing for me, just knowing that I can do it. I’ve done it. I showed it before, so coming out here and getting better and getting there again.”
Stewart was hitless in his first 13 big league at-bats before going 10-for-27.
“I felt comfortable in the box the whole time that I was up there, hitting the ball hard, just hitting it right at people,” Stewart said.
“That’s the game of baseball, it doesn’t always fall in…There wasn’t a whole lot of adjustments with the coaching staff, even when I was up there. They kept saying, ‘Keep swinging and eventually, they’ll fall. I think you saw that once I got the first one to fall, they kept coming. That’s what it takes. Sometimes you overlook it and think there are adjustments that you have to make, but realistically, you have to keep swinging the bat and they’ll fall eventually.”
Stewart faces lots of competition. Yusniel Diaz and Austin Hays have been impressive in camp, and so has Eric Young Jr. He wants to come north, but it’s hardly a guarantee.
“Obviously, it’s a disappointment because you want to be in the big leagues ultimately,” Stewart said. “That’s our goal. That’s everyone’s goal, every single day is to be in the big leagues and stay in the big leagues, you want to put on that big league uniform; it’s an honor to do that. It would be a disappointment. I’m not going to let it put me down one way or the other. If that is the case, I’m going to be continue to work, and prove myself that I should be up there.”
There’s an opening in right field, and that’s where Stewart has been playing, but he’s open to playing any of the outfield positions.
“That’s for the coaches to decide,” Stewart said. “Wherever they put me, I’ll feel comfortable and go out there and do my job to the best of my ability.
“The biggest thing [manager Brandon Hyde] said is just go out and compete and don’t really worry about positions. Go out there and compete, and that’s what I’m going to do.”