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Orioles call 2021 first-round pick Colton Cowser; outfielder makes major league debut against Yankees – The Denver Post

The Orioles’ strong start to the season came with two prospects pounding out the door to make their respective debuts. In just over a week, the two made it to the majors.

Nine days after calling up infielder Jordan Westburg, the Orioles promoted outfielder Colton Cowser, their No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America, to the majors ahead of Wednesday night’s game against the New York Yankees. Drafted fifth overall in 2021, the 23-year-old Cowser was 0.330/0.459/0.537 in 56 games with Triple-A Norfolk.

“This year I came in with goals that I wanted to achieve,” Cowser said. “I didn’t have the best start, but ultimately I think changing that and then really starting to get my cadence was something I wanted to do. Struggle, how fast can you fight that , and finally, I think I did.

The Orioles opened up space for Cowser on their active and 40-player rosters with a flurry of roster moves, also giving outfielder Ryan McKenna an option in Norfolk, naming receiver Anthony Bemboom and right-hander Chris Vallimont for assignment, and selecting the right-handed contract Edouard Bazardo.

Cowser, who will wear No. 17, hit seventh and played left field in his major league debut on Wednesday. The roster also included Westburg, the 30th overall pick in 2020, and wide receiver Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore’s first two selections in the 2019 draft.

“He’s been a really close friend of mine for a while now,” Henderson said. “It will be really fun having him here and joking with him and seeing him come out. … Hats off to the scouting department. They’ve had a lot of good guys, even still at the Triple-A level. There’s major league talent out there, and now you see it here. And it’s really cool to have a very close group of friends and to be able to play together at this point.

Orioles could have brought Cowser in sooner if not for Cedric Mullins’ right groin strain in late May, when Cowser himself was nursing a right quadriceps injury. Instead, Baltimore signed veteran Aaron Hicks, using a combination of him, Austin Hays and McKenna in center field in Mullins’ absence.

The 2021 All-Star’s return after 20 games appears to have stalled playing time in the Orioles’ outfield, only for Hays to collide with Minnesota Twins first baseman Donovan Solano hours before being announced as an All-Star for the first time and to miss the next two games with a bruised left hip. Manager Brandon Hyde said ahead of Wednesday’s game that Hays, who was once again out of the line-up, was improving and could be available on the bench.

Once Hays is healthy, the Orioles could continue to find playing time for Cowser in all three outfield spots, with Hyde saying he would sort out playing time between Cowser, Mullins, Hays, Hicks and Anthony Santander on a “night to night” basis.

“We wanted to bring Colton here,” Hyde said. “These are important games, and every game counts right now. We’re only going to bring guys here that we think can help us win.

Cowser learned of his promotion after the Tides game on Tuesday, walking into the visiting manager’s office at Durham’s Triple-A Stadium and seeing Buck Britton grinning broadly. Cowser was scratched from the Norfolk lineup about an hour before the first pitch and spent the game in the dugout, getting an ear from teammates who joked he just wanted the day off.

After receiving the news, Cowser passed it on during a group call with his parents, Dale and Anna; his brother, Ty; and his sister-in-law, Raegan. They will be among about 20 family and friends who have come to New York for her debut, a collection that also includes a cousin, Emily Tanner, whose former Radio City Rockette status prompted one of Cowser’s two previous visits to the city. .

Going into the season as baseball’s No. 41 prospect in Baseball America’s rankings, Cowser rose to No. 13 on the strength of his performance and the graduations of the players ahead of him, passing right-hander Grayson Rodriguez to trail only the 2022 first overall pick Jackson Holliday from the Baltimore Minor Leaguers. Usually serving as the Tides’ leadoff or third batter, Cowser hit 10 home runs while posting a solid 60-to-48 strikeout ratio after hitting nearly twice as often as he crossed three levels in 2022, his first full professional season.

When Baltimore drafted Cowser, a left-handed hitter, fifth overall over Sam Houston, he went a little earlier than expected. But he backed that selection by hitting .305 with a .920 OPS in his minor league career. This season, he notably improved his discipline at the plate and his performance against left-handed pitchers.

Cowser has had its ups and downs in 2022, his first full season in professional baseball. He struggled at High-A Aberdeen before dominating with Double-A Bowie, earning him a season-ending stint with Norfolk. With the tides he hit much early before settling late, carrying that success into a productive offseason and a strong start to 2023.

Cowser’s arrival comes as the Orioles (49-35) battle with five games left in the first half. They’ve lost six of their last seven games — scoring over four points just twice and over four once — and are 16-18 from a 33-17 start.

“Hopefully he can give us a spark,” Hyde said.

McKenna served as a late-inning defensive backup in the Orioles’ outfield throughout the season, with Hyde saying he was a tough player to send given his clubhouse popularity. Bemboom, who is out of minor league options, twice served as Baltimore’s backup for Rutschman this season while James McCann was on the injured list. Vallimont pitched two-thirds of an inning Monday in his MLB debut. Bazardo has a 3.51 ERA in 24 outings with Norfolk and has pitched well in 14 games with the Boston Red Sox over the past two seasons.



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