Stowers strives to get noticed again in Orioles' outfield competition -
Spring Training

Stowers strives to get noticed again in Orioles’ outfield competition

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

SARASOTA, Florida—Last season was one to forget for Kyle Stowers. After the 26-year-old outfielder had a nice end to the 2022 season, big things were expected of him in 2023.

Instead of building on 2022, when he hit ,253 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 34 games, Stowers came apart last year. He was just 2-for-30 (.067) in 14 games and didn’t play a game for the Orioles after May 14th.

At Triple-A Norfolk, Stowers had shoulder inflammation and later was hit in the face by a pitch and fractured his nose.

“I’ve got to stay healthy,” Stowers said. “I think that’s what started it for me last year with the injuries. The classic cheesy saying: ‘The best ability is availability.’ From there, I think there’s always improvement to be made.”

In 68 games with the Tides, Stowers hit .245 with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs and an .875 OPS. There were lots of walks (40), which enabled him to have a .364 on-base percentage, but he struck out 76 times.

“Put the bat on the ball a little more,” Stowers said. “I think that’s an area that’s been a focus of mine, and not necessarily something that I’ve excelled in. I know that I have a skill set that I make up in other ways, but the more I can just be accurate to fastballs, the more competitive I can be, even in bad at-bats, the better. Just having more quality at-bats all around. That’s an area that’s easy for me, low-hanging fruit for me to improve.”

Stowers was drafted behind catcher Adley Rutschman and shortstop/third baseman Gunnar Henderson in 2019, and he’d like to stick around the big league club this year, but it will be difficult. The Orioles have Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander as well as 2020’s top draft choice, Heston Kjerstad, and Colton Cowser, the top pick in 2021 competing for spots.

They also have Sam Hilliard and Ryan McKenna, both with more major league experience than Stowers.

“He’s got to compete,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’ve got a pretty talented group, so with the three primary outfielders coming back, things always happen throughout camp. We’re looking for bench bats and guys that can platoon. Guys that can step in and start. He’s in the mix for one of those guys that’s competing for a big league job.”

Stowers could only watch from a distance as his teammates won 101 games and the American League East.

“It was very tough, just from the standpoint of that I felt part of the team, but it was also super fun to see everyone do so well,” he said. “You could tell how much fun everyone was having. Just the atmosphere that they were playing in front of. That’s what you want as a player.

“Not really a surprise; I think you heard all of us talking last year in spring that we felt something was brewing like that and so obviously wished I could have been there to be a part of it.”

Besides the outfielders with major league experience, there’s a strong group of outfielders who aren’t in camp but could factor into the Orioles’ future, including Dylan Beavers, Enrique Bradfield Jr. and Hudson Haskin.

“It’s a strong group of guys,” Stowers said. “I think I would say I’m approaching it the same way I always have. I really just have to focus on taking care of what I can take care of and play my best baseball and be the best player I can be and the best teammate and from there, it’s going to fall how it falls.

“I’ve got to do everything I can to show that I’m an asset to the big league club and if I can do that, I think it’s going to fall how it’s supposed to. I think the competitive atmosphere is fun. I think it brings the best in all of us, and I think it enhances our performance.”

Stowers is one of several Orioles who got married in the offseason, and he’s feeling healthy. There wasn’t much time to be concerned with a possible trade.

“I just try to play where my feet are,” Stowers said. “I just can’t think about what’s in front of me, and this is a great group of guys, such a fun situation. I just want to do everything I can to be a part of it.”

Hyde said that the 26 players who begin the season aren’t necessarily the 26 who’ll be with the team later in the season.

“The roster changes constantly. You always have to be ready, and all of our guys are aware of that,” he said.

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