It wasn’t a surprise when the Orioles added Joey Ortiz to the 40-man roster. The team’s fourth-round draft choice in 2019 is one of a number of talented Oriole infield prospects.
Ortiz had an outstanding month at Triple-A Norfolk, hitting .346 with a .967 OPS, four home runs and 14 RBIs in 26 games. At Double-A Bowie, he hit .269 with a .792 OPS, 15 home runs and 71 RBIs.
“I always like to think the level changes, but the game doesn’t change,” Ortiz said in a Zoom call with the Baltimore media. “It’s still the same game. It’s still baseball. I just go out there and play the same way. I’m working on all of it to get better and improve and when I do get the opportunity, everything will come into play and this won’t be a ‘glove first shortstop’ or limited to one thing. I want to do everything and be the best player that I can.”
With so much competition, Ortiz needs to set himself apart.
“I like to take pride that my defense is, I would say, above average,” Ortiz said. “Especially at a position like shortstop. You want to be able to make every single play that comes to you. My hitting is coming around, too. I take pride in now being an all-around shortstop.”
Ortiz wants to prove that he can be a major league hitter.
“I definitely wanted people to know, coming into this year, that I’m not ‘glove only,’ but I can hit at a high level. It’s always something to fuel the fire, kind of a chip on the shoulder type of thing. Ever since I got drafted, I wanted to make it a point that I could hit, hit with the pros. I think I’ve done that.”
Ortiz has mostly played shortstop, but the Orioles have an opening at second base. In 2022, he played 26 games there at Norfolk and Bowie.
“I feel very comfortable,” he said. “I think I can play any position on the infield as far as short, third, second go. Playing second base was comfortable. I thought it was easy. I want to make sure that people know I can play any position, and I’m not just limited to one spot.”
Rom seeks to make room: The Orioles don’t have many left-handed starter candidates. John Means will begin the season on the injured list, recovering from his late April Tommy John surgery. Bruce Zimmermann spent much of the season at Triple-A Norfolk, and DL Hall has started only one major league game.
Although Drew Rom has only seven starts at Norfolk and is likely to begin the season there, he was encouraged last week when he was added to the 40-man roster.
“A big relief because I didn’t know where I stood,” Rom said. “I felt like I was in good enough standing where I would have a shot. Hearing the phone call was a lot of weight off my shoulders. Now I can just focus on this offseason and getting ready for spring training.”
Rom, who was the Orioles’ fourth-round pick in 2018, was 1-1 with a 4.54 ERA in those seven starts for the Tides. At Double-A Bowie, he was 7-2 with a 4.37 ERA in 19 games.
After Rom’s first season with the team, the Orioles hired Mike Elias to head baseball operations, and the way business was done in the organization changed radically.
“It did a complete 180,” Rom said. “We went from the old school thought of throwing and lifting and running to where you need a long toss, increased velo. The old school mentality of pitching was there in 2018, throw everyone inside, do fastballs in, curveballs down, that model that everyone grew up with.
“But with Elias and Sig [Mejdal, assistant general manager of analytics], we saw it really transform into being data-driven. Everything we do has a purpose backed by analytics for us. We always have a reason and a rhyme for everything we do.”
Rom hopes that being a left-hander will provide an advantage.
“I look at it from time-to-time, but there’s only so much I can do about it,” Rom said about joining the Orioles. “I just make Elias and all those guys up there make those tough decisions. I do look at it like there’s not a whole lot of us up there, as in lefties. It’s in the back of my mind that it might be a little bit easier for me to get up there, more of an opportunity, but right now, I’m going to try to get better at what I need to get better at.”
Denoyer’s climb: Noah Denoyer, who was signed by the Orioles without being drafted, was also added to the 40-man roster while several players who were drafted will be left unprotected for the December 7th Rule 5 draft.
“My goal was always to make the big leagues and do as well as I can,” he said.
Denoyer was 5-2 with a 2.89 ERA and two saves with Bowie, High-A Aberdeen and a game for the Florida Complex League Orioles. He was 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 20 innings in the Arizona Fall League.
“I think the most important thing is to enjoy the journey,” he said. “It gets really hard over the course of a season if you’re not enjoying it. I think that’s definitely the most important thing. Definitely embracing what your goal is and putting in the work, trying to achieve it.”