NEW YORK—The Orioles purchased the contract of outfielder Colton Cowser, their No. 1 draft pick in 2021, and the 23-year-old left-handed hitter, who was the 14th-rated prospect by MLB Pipeline, will be batting seventh and playing left field Wednesday night against the New York Yankees. He was hitting .330 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs and a .996 OPS in 56 games at Triple-A Norfolk.
Cowser’s debut comes nine days after the Orioles added infielder Jordan Westburg, the 33rd-ranked prospect. He was a late scratch from Norfolk’s game on Tuesday night. After the game, Tides manager Buck Britton told him he was going to the Orioles.
“I just sat there the whole game just kind of pondering it,” Cowser said. “When I walked in there, he was just smiling cheek-t0-cheek. I kind of got what was going on.”
Manager Brandon Hyde liked what he saw of Cowser during spring training.
“The ability to play three spots in the outfield and three spots well,” Hyde said. “He took really good at-bats, especially after the first week of spring. Managed an at-bat, take a walk, hit with some power, athletic, can run. Hopefully, he can give us a spark.”
The Orioles have lost six of their last seven games, including two straight to the Yankees.
Cowser, who was promoted to Norfolk late last season, returned there to begin the season.
“This year I came in with some goals I wanted to achieve,” Cowser said. “I didn’t get off to the greatest start, but ultimately I think turning that around and then really starting to hit my stride was something that I wanted to do when it came to have some struggles, how quickly can you combat that and ultimately I think that I did.”
It’s not Cowser’s first trip to New York. When he was 14, he watched his cousin, who’s a Rockette, perform at Radio City Music Hall. She’ll be among many family members attending the game.
The Orioles also purchased the contract of right-handed pitcher Eduard Bazardo from Norfolk. Bazardo, who was 1-0 with a 2.33 earned-run average in 14 games with Boston in 2021 and 2022, was 4-1 with a 3.51 ERA in 24 games for the Tides this season. He signed a minor league contract with the Orioles on December 19th, 2022.
To make room for Cowser and Bazardo, the Orioles optioned outfielder Ryan McKenna to Norfolk after Tuesday’s 8-4 loss to the Yankees, and designated catcher Anthony Bemboom for assignment. The Orioles also designated pitcher Chris Vallimont for assignment.
McKenna hit .253 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in 52 games. He had started just once since June 15th.
“Mac’s extremely well liked by the coaching staff and the players here,” Hyde said. “When you talk about the energy and the vibe of the team, he is an enormous part of that, just always being ready, the loudest guy in the dugout, always super prepared. The positive for him is that he can go out and get at-bats, which I think he needs. Hopefully, he’ll be back up here at some point this year and have a lot of playing time under his belt.”
Cowser could have been a consideration for the Orioles in late May when Cedric Mullins went on the injured list, but he was out with a quad injury.
“Had to get him healthy,” Hyde said. “He was playing well down there. We’re not scoring a ton of runs the last couple of weeks so hopefully he’ll be able to give us a spark offensively.”
Cowser joins Westburg, Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman in the starting lineup, all of whom have been added to the major league roster in less than 14 months.
“A lot of homegrown guys now,” Hyde said. “Guys who have done a lot of cool things in the minor leagues, drafted high, succeeded and earned their way here, all came up together, too, know each other well, exciting time for this team, for the organization, for the fans to watch guys that … have been drafted high and have high expectations for. Hopefully, Colton can come in here and fit in and play well.
“Every game matters right now and we’re only going to bring guys up here that we feel like can help us win.”
Cowser and Henderson are close friends.
“You need a light-hearted guy all the time to keep the mood light, especially in the back half of the season,” Henderson said. “He’ll provide a lot of offense. That will help us right now. You can put as much pressure [on yourself] as you want, but that’s not going to help you.
“He’s the type of guy not going to go out there and put any pressure, just going to go out there and be himself. That’s what you want when a guy comes up from the minor leagues is just do what he’s done to get himself to this point.”
Hyde said that it’s hard to find playing time for all his position players.
“It’s a great problem to have when you have 13 guys who want to play,” Hyde said.
Bemboom hit .182 in six games for the Orioles. Vallimont had been optioned after Monday’s game when he registered two outs and allowed a hit in his major league debut.
Notes: Hyde said that Austin Hays, who hasn’t played since bruising his left hip on Sunday, is nearing a return. … Single-A Delmarva catcher Samuel Basallo is now the 100th-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline.