Jordan Westburg has a friendly competition with Gunnar Henderson about who is going to be the future shortstop for the Orioles.
One of those players might move to third base, but the Orioles have to like the potential shape of the left side of the infield in the next couple of years.
Henderson, 19, was promoted to High-A Aberdeen from Low-A Delmarva on Sunday where he will join Westburg, 22, so the competition will heat up again.
“Me and Gunnar … both infielders, want to play shortstop at the next level,” Westburg said. “[At Delmarva] we had that little friendly pact like, ‘Hey, I’m not gonna let you play short, you better not let me play short. Let’s continue to push each other.’ Iron sharpens iron.”
Orioles third base/infield coach Tony Mansolino likes what he sees from both players.
“Gunnar is a little younger than Westy, but they are just physical infielders,” Mansolino said during spring training. “As you watch them, I think when you see a bigger kid, you dream on these kids and you want to compare them to the kid in L.A., [Corey] Seager. You know, that type of a middle infielder body. And as you watch these guys right now, you see traits of that.”
Westburg earned his promotion June 1st from Delmarva to Aberdeen by hitting .366/.484/.592 for the Shorebirds. Westburg is still getting acclimated to his surroundings in Aberdeen.
“It’s going well. It was pretty smooth,” Westburg said. “It’s pretty nice. The first week I got to go up was a home week so that was good to get settled in for about a week and now we’re on the back half of about a two-week road trip so I’m looking forward to getting back to Aberdeen and everybody else is because it’s been a long two weeks but that’s just part of it.”
Westburg is still making adjustments for the IronBirds because the pitching has been tougher and pitchers are attacking him differently. Westburg is batting .274 and hit his first home run for the IronBirds in a 19-4 loss to Asheville on Sunday. Westburg also has 13 RBIs in 15 games for Aberdeen.
“The consistent [velocity] and then the ability to throw strikes,” Westburg said. “When I was in Low-A there were a lot of walks. In High-A, guys throw more strikes, they’re more in the zone, they can command their secondary stuff better as well as that better philosophy so there’s been a bit of an adjustment. I’m making adjustments in the box myself to have success but they are all learning experiences so I look forward to keep getting after it.”
Westburg was selected by the Orioles in the competitive balance round (No. 30 overall) of the 2020 draft after batting .317/.432/.517 (19-for-60) with six doubles, two home runs, 17 runs, and 11 RBIs in 16 games during his junior season at Mississippi State in 2020.
Westburg is ranked as the Orioles’ sixth-best prospect by MLB.com The Orioles think invited him to spring training, an experience he savored.
“Just getting to be around some of the older guys, the pro guys, and some of the staff members as well,” Westburg said. “You just pick up little things about the game that you might never see if you don’t get those experiences. Getting to be in the dugout for the big, big games and even getting to play the last two or three innings was an awesome experience.
“I didn’t expect to go out there and set the world on fire or tear the cover off the baseball. Just being able to take the failures and the successes as learning experiences was probably the biggest thing for me.”
It’s an exciting time to be in the Orioles ‘minor league system. The club has a number of highly touted players throughout the minor league affiliates.
“I think the organization as a whole is pretty exciting when you think about it,” Westburg said. “The talent that we have, you know, Low-A, High-A, Double-A, Triple-A, it’s unbelievable. I feel like every day I see something on social media that one of our prospects or one of our guys is having a great day on the plate or in the field just doing something special.”
A winning culture is being developed at the minor league level. Only Norfolk, at 15-24, has a losing record. Bowie is 27-13, Delmarva 25-15, and Aberdeen 23-17.
Westburg hopes the winning continues when the prospects reach Baltimore.
“It’s awesome,” Westburg said. “It’s easy to show up to the ballpark when you have a great team and you have a chance to win and that’s what we’re doing right now. It makes baseball way more fun, especially when you’re on the road and the days do get longer. As long as you can find a way to win, it’s just awesome.”
One of Westburg’s goals is to cut down on strikeouts. He tries to have a plan each time he comes to the plate. He also hopes to keep moving up.
“I would love to get as high as I can this year,” Westburg said. “Honestly, I think that’s the goal for everybody, to get to the big leagues as quickly as possible. Obviously, that might be quite a stretch to get there this year but just learn as much as I can along the way and, hopefully, at the end of the season I can get up to Double-A and, if not, it’s great here.
“I’m going to learn a lot and get a lot of playing time here and have a lot of great experiences. So, either way, I’m in a good situation and as long as I can be myself and not put too much pressure on myself, I’m going to have a great year.”
Road warriors: The Bowie Baysox returned home to Prince George’s Stadium on Tuesday after their longest road trip in team history (12 games). On Sunday, they lost to visiting Akron, 3-2, in 10 innings. In his second start of the homestand, Grayson Rodriguez allowed two runs and two hits with eight strikeouts in five innings. In his first start on Tuesday. Rodriguez gave up two runs on four hits, striking out six , walking one in 4 2/3.
Reliever Manny Barreda allowed a run in the 10th and took the loss for Bowie. Bowie went 8-4 on the road trip against Hartford and Binghamton and is 6-0 in series this season. Bowie is playing 12 games at home through June 27th before hitting the road at the end of the month.
Hitting streak ends: Triple-A Norfolk infielder Jahmai Jones had his season-high 10-game hitting streak end in a 6-5 loss to Durham on Sunday. He went 0-for-2 with three walks. Jones is batting .348 with four homers and 18 RBIs in 69 at-bats. Jones was acquired by the Orioles from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for right-handed pitcher Alex Cobb. Jones had an oblique injury earlier this season and is a candidate to earn a promotion to the Orioles.
Promotions: Infielder JC Escarra was promoted to Norfolk from Bowie, where he batted .219 with four homers and 17 RBIs.
Right-handed pitcher Kyle Brnovich, infielder Toby Welk and outfielder Kyle Stowers were promoted from Aberdeen to Bowie. Brnovich went 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in eight starts. Welk batted .265 with two homers and 19 RBIs. Stowers hit .275 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs.
Outfielders Trevor Kehe and Dylan Harris moved from Delmarva to Aberdeen. Kehe batted .207 with four homers and 14 RBIs. Harris batted .224 with one homer and 14 RBIs.
Infielder Yorkislandy Alvarez and outfielder Lamar Sparks join Delmarva.
Outfielder Yusniel Diaz will return to Norfolk on Tuesday after a rehab stint with Bowie where he batted .278.