BOWIE, Md.—Many of the names on this year’s Bowie Baysox roster are familiar to avid Orioles fans, the ones who carefully followed the comings and goings of spring training.
Two of the Baysox, pitchers Hunter Harvey and Dillon Tate, are already on the Orioles’ 40-man roster.
Several others, including pitchers Chris Lee, Zach Pop, catchers Cale Brockmeyer, Martin Cervenka and outfielders Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna, were invited to major league spring training.
Most of the remaining players were summoned from minor league camp at Twin Lake Parks to fill in as extras for Grapefruit League games. Pitchers Tanner Chleborad, Tyler Erwin, Jay Flaa, Zach Muckhinhirn, infielders Sean Miller (a native of Crofton, Md.), Preston Palmeiro and outfielder T.J. Nichting often got the call for a cameo.
Bowie’s first-year manager, Buck Britton, the older brother of Zack, earned the promotion to Double-A after doing well at Class-A Delmarva in 2018.
“We’ve got some of the top prospects here,” the 32-year-old Britton said at Tuesday’s media day at Prince George’s Stadium.
“I think we’re going to be a little different than we have been in the past. I think we’re going to be more versatile. You’re going to see guys move around the field, more team speed, but I think that plays well for what they’re trying to do in the big leagues, aggressive on the bases.”
Britton spent seven years in the Orioles’ organization, playing every position but catcher and center field. He pitched twice for Triple-A Norfolk in 2014. After spending a year each with the Dodgers and Twins organizations at Triple-A, Britton was the hitting coach for Delmarva in 2017 before his promotion to manager in 2018.
“The speed of the game changes as you go up every level,” Britton said. “You make that jump, you’ve got to figure out ways to slow the game down.”
Britton said that his coaching staff will be vital.
“I have major support with [hitting coach] Keith Bodie, a guy who’s done this for years, who I’m going to be leaning on, with [pitching coach Kennie Steenstra] helping me run a bullpen, ” Britton said. “I’m not here on an island by myself…Kennie was coaching me when I played here, and he coached my brother for a couple of years, so we have that relationship already.”
General manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde had the Bowie staff for the first three weeks of spring training, something that helped Britton.
“It was nice to get the ability to go to major league camp and get to know the coaching staff there, just the energy they had, ” Britton said.
“They come from a line of player development. That’s their main focus. They’ve been guys who’ve grinded through the minor leagues. The overall energy was nice to see, especially for a young team.”
One of the prospects who didn’t get a look at Orioles camp was left-handed pitcher Zac Lowther, who was a second-round pick in 2017. Lowther was 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA in six starts for Britton at Delmarva before a promotion to High-A Frederick, where he was 5-3 with a 2.53 ERA in 17 games.
“The guy throws a lot of strikes, gets a lot of strikes with his fastball, and in spring training it was much of the same,” Britton said. “He’s a guy that’s hopefully going to be a consistent guy in that rotation for us.”
Lowther is just two steps from the Orioles, and he’s looking forward to what may lie ahead.
“It’s cool to be that close and have that sense that ‘I’m almost there,’ but at the same time it’s really far away, so being able to stay within the moment is something that I try and work on.”
Diaz was impressive in his short stay in big league camp after struggling in his time with the Baysox last year. He was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In 38 games with Bowie, Diaz hit .239 with five home runs and 15 RBIs.
“Any time you get traded and you’ve got to come into a new clubhouse, a new environment, it can be tough,” Britton said. “Being a headliner for a guy like Manny Machado, that’s a lot of weight to carry on your shoulders. He came in here and he tried to impress right away, and got off to a slow start.
“If you look at his numbers, this guy’s been a consistent player in his career. He’s very talented. I’m hoping we see a little more relaxed guy like we did in spring training, and a guy who comes out and lets his tools speak for themselves.”
Diaz enjoyed his time at major league camp.
“I learned a lot, mostly from the other players that I was around,” he said through a translator.
Britton thinks the Baysox, who are playing at Harrisburg in their opening series this weekend and will play their home opener against the Senators on April 11 at 6:35 p.m., are going to be a different club this season.
“In the past, it’s been emulate the big league team, which was sit back and wait for that three-run homer,” Britton said. “Here, it’s going to be, push the envelope, we’re going to be aggressive on the bases, just how they’re doing in the big leagues.”