The Orioles needed to make a move to add Chris Ellis, Tuesday night’s starting pitcher against the Oakland A’s, to the active roster. They needed to add him to the 28-man and 40-man rosters.
The 28-man roster move was simple. They sent down right-hander Marcos Diplán to Triple-A Norfolk, but they still needed to make room on the 40-man roster before their 2-1 loss to the A’s.
DJ Stewart, once considered a bright prospect by the previous Orioles’ regime, was designated for assignment.
The Orioles have seven days to waive, trade or release the 28-year-old outfielder. If he passes through waivers, he could be outrighted to Norfolk, where he was optioned on April 10th.
It’s in the Orioles’ best interest, and in Stewart’s, to help him find a new home.
The Orioles have three solid major league outfielders — Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander — who start regularly, and a fourth, Ryan McKenna, who plays solid defense and has excellent speed to fill in.
Stewart played in the minors with each of them, and in the major leagues, as well. While Hays, Mullins and Santander have established themselves in the majors, Stewart has not.
In 2015, Stewart was the 25th overall pick from Florida State. Ryan Mountcastle was taken 11 spots later. Mountcastle, who’s three years younger, established himself in 2020 and 2021, when he hit 33 home runs as a rookie. McKenna, who was taken in the fourth round, remains with the Orioles because of his overall value.
Opinions about Stewart were sharply divided among team decision-makers when he was drafted. There was a paucity of left-handed power hitters, they contended, and he was drafted much higher than he should have been, they felt. He was a liability on defense.
Dan Duquette and Gary Rajsich, who was the head of the team’s scouting department, thought Stewart would be a star. He struggled in his first stops at Short Season-A Aberdeen in 2015 and 2016 Low-A Delmarva, but the Orioles promoted him to High-A Frederick, and he hit .279 with an .837 OPS in 59 games.
A year later, he hit well at Bowie with 21 homers, 79 RBIs and even 20 stolen bases, compiling a .278 average and an .859 OPS. Late in Duquette’s tenure, Stewart was promoted to the major leagues late in 2018 after a mediocre season at Triple-A Norfolk.
With the Orioles, there were injuries — a concussion, hamstring issues and knee surgery after last season. This spring, Stewart missed substantial time after he was hit by a pitch on his left hand.
In all, Stewart hit .213 with 26 home runs in 195 games in parts of five years. His ability to draw walks gave him a .327 on-base percentage, but there were always questions about his defense.
The Orioles have many young outfielders they’d like to look at, perhaps Yusniel Diaz, if he can get healthy, and Kyle Stowers, both at Norfolk, In a year or so, Colton Cowser, who’s at High-A Aberdeen, and Heston Kjerstad, who’s yet to play professionally.
It would be good to see Stewart get a fresh start with another team.
Orioles lose 2-1: Ellis pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits in the Orioles’ 2-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
Mike Baumann (1-1) allowed a two-run double to Seth Brown in the sixth.
The Orioles (3-8) left 10 runners on base and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Minor league update: Shortstop Richie Martin had three hits and third baseman Rylan Bannon drove in two runs as Triple-A Norfolk beat Durham, 7-5. Centerfielder Terrin Vavra and second baseman Jahmai Jones each had two hits and drove in a run, and leftfielder Johnny Rizer hit his fifth home run. Cody Sedlock (2-0) pitched four scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out five. Nick Vespi earned his second save.
Double-A Bowie scored eight runs in the first and eight more in the eighth on their way to a 20-6 win over Akron. Centerfielder Hudson Haskin drove in six, including a grand slam. Leftfielder Shayne Fontana had three RBIs and his second homer. Rightfielder Dylan Harris had two RBIs and his first home run. Catcher Maverick Handley had a two-run home run. Second baseman Adam Hall had three RBIs.
High-A Aberdeen scored four runs in the seventh in its 8-6 win over Greensboro. Shortstop César Prieto had three RBIs, third baseman Coby Mayo drove in two. First baseman Jacob Teter and centerfielder Colton Cowser hit their first home runs.
Low-A Delmarva scored seven first-inning runs in its 8-3 win over Myrtle Beach. Starter Moises Chace allowed two hits in four innings, striking out five and walking three. First baseman Josue Cruz drove in two runs.
Note: Because of an unfavorable weather forecast in Oakland, Wednesday’s game time has been moved to 6:07 p.m. Eastern time. Jordan Lyles (0-1, 5.23) will facesDaulton Jefferies (1-1, 1.93).