Heston Kjerstad, the Orioles’ top draft pick in 2020 and the second overall selection in the draft, is making progress after being treated for mydocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, according to Orioles director of development Matt Blood.
Kjerstad, a 22-year-old outfielder, couldn’t participate in last October’s Instructional League in Sarasota, Florida, or in spring training.
“He had been working out at the alternate site [at Bowie], everyday physical activity,” Blood said in a video conference call on Tuesday.
“He will be down in Florida in a week and he’ll continue his progression there. It will be a slow buildup process for him. No need to rush him as he gets back to full health, full baseball condition, and then eventually into games.”
Right-handed pitcher Michael Baumann, who was placed on the 40-man roster for the first time in November, didn’t throw competitively in spring training and is not on a roster. He suffered a flexor mass tendon injury last summer at the alternate site.
“He’s still in Florida,” Blood said. “We’re just slow building, being cautious with him, managing some discomfort. Hopefully, he’ll be back by the end of the month.”
Left-hander Keegan Akin, who pitched eight games for the Orioles late last season, has recovered from the cut on the left index finger he sustained in a kitchen accident.
“He’ll throw a side tomorrow,” Blood said. “Hopefully, he’s going to make a start for Norfolk on Friday.”
Catcher Nick Ciuffo remains out because of a hand injury. Blood hopes he’ll be back in early June.
Right-handed pitcher Carter Baumler, who was the team’s fifth-round draft pick last June, is recovering from Tommy John surgery, Blood said.
Managing innings: The Orioles sent stater Bruce Zimmermann down before Monday night’s game against the Mariners. Last month, they did the same with Dean Kremer, who pitched six strong innings on Monday night.
It’s an effort to limit the innings of their young pitchers, especially after the lack of work in 2020 because of Covid-19.
Blood said that there are not specific numbers for the top pitching prospects, Bowie’s DL Hall and Aberdeen’s Grayson Rodriguez.
“Every single pitcher, we’re going to be watching carefully and monitoring,” Blood said. “It’s an unprecedented situation. The roster sizes are larger. We will have large numbers of pitchers on each rosters so we will be monitoring it, but we also want these guys to get their work in.”
International progress: Perhaps as many as 30 international players will be part of the group at extended spring training, Blood said.
“There will be a significant presence of Dominican players in extended and in the [Complex League] this year,” he said.
Outfielder Luis Gonzalez, who signed for $475,000 in July 2019, the largest bonus given to an international player by the Orioles that year, is in extended spring training.
Two players acquired late last season — outfielder Mishael Deson and infielder Isaac DeLeon — are in Sarasota. Deson was part of the package the Orioles received from Colorado for relief pitcher Mychal Givens, and DeLeon was part of the return from Miami for reliever Richard Bleier.
The Orioles vaccinated players at extended spring training recently.
“We’ve been working on the group that was at spring training, getting as many players and staff vaccinated as possible,” Blood said. “We’ll be continuing to do that at the affiliates, where they are now.”
Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles’ questions later this week. You may leave yours in the comment box below or e-mail them to: [email protected].