Brandon Hyde said he doesn’t have words of wisdom for young players making their major league debuts.
Instead, the Orioles manager wants to be “relaxed,” hoping that energy rubs off on the player achieving a lifelong goal.
Either that strategy worked Monday, or Jordan Westburg, who brings a consistent and even-keeled reputation to Baltimore along with his talent as a top 100 prospect, didn’t need to be calmed down, as the 24-year-old looked plenty relaxed in his debut Monday.
Westburg did a little bit of everything to help lead the Orioles to a 10-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in a game twice delayed because of rain.
“Just soak it in,” Westburg said about his approach. “Tried to really block out as many emotions as I could and just try to lock in and focus on the game. But at the same time, I just wanted to kind of look around, take in the atmosphere, the environment, the people. This is something I’ve never been a part of before, so it’s just really special.”
After a loud ovation and a “Westy” chant, he walked in his first plate appearance to spark a two-out rally. He drove in his first run on a groundout in his second at-bat. In his third, he recorded his first MLB hit — a bloop single to left field. On the bases, he was caught stealing, and in the field, he made the defensive play of the game with a slick glove flip at second base.
“I thought he played a nice game,” Hyde said. “It’s a young player in his debut, so you’re hoping he just feels as comfortable as possible. There’s a lot of people watching him, and I just wanted him to relax and play, and I thought he did that.”
The ball from his first hit and the lineup card were in his locker after the game, and he has simple plans for those prestigious mementos.
“Frame them and not touch them for a very long, long time,” Westburg said with a smile.
He also enjoyed a postgame interview on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network’s television broadcast, an embrace with his family and a celebration in the clubhouse.
“It was really cool,” Westburg said about the locker room festivities. “Just everybody seems to have open arms and really kind of accepting me in the clubhouse today just made this day a lot easier.”
The Orioles put up crooked numbers in the second, third, fifth and seventh innings behind a lineup that had 12 hits and nine walks. All nine batters reached base, with Austin Hays, Adley Rutschman, Anthony Santander and Ramón Urías tallying two hits apiece. Hays, Rutschman, Urías, Westburg and Cedric Mullins all recorded at least one RBI.
Left-handers Cole Irvin and Bruce Zimmermann — the former pitching between the two rain delays that totaled 1 hour, 59 minutes, the latter after — combined for a quality start, allowing three runs on seven hits and no walks across six innings (three apiece).
Relievers Bryan Baker, Mike Baumann and Cionel Pérez each delivered a shutout inning to slam the door, ending the game at midnight — nearly five hours after the originally scheduled first pitch.
The win over the National League Central-leading and Elly De La Cruz-powered Reds (41-38) is the Orioles’ third straight. With a 48-29 record, Baltimore is 19 games over .500 for the first time since 2014. The Orioles own the second-best record in the American League and are four games behind the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays.
After rain delayed the game’s start by 15 minutes, the rain began to fall again right when Westburg stepped to the plate for his first MLB plate appearance, with a cadre of family and friends behind home plate starting the “Westy” chant, leading the rest of the crowd at Camden Yards to join in. His parents, Christine and Paul Westburg, and his wife, Anna Claire Westburg, were in attendance, in addition to some friends in Westburg T-shirts.
“It hit me pretty close to my heart, hearing a lot of people chant my name,” he said. “That was pretty cool.”
Westburg’s debut is the third for an Orioles prospect this season, with right-hander Grayson Rodriguez and infielder Joey Ortiz the first two. However, Rodriguez and Ortiz both played their first games on the road — Rodriguez in Texas versus the Rangers and Ortiz in Detroit against the Tigers. Many of the club’s fans have yearned for big league promotions from the organization’s No. 1-ranked farm system, and they released that excitement Monday.
“That was special,” Westburg said of the fan reaction. “Playing in a city I’ve never played in before and having the support of everybody that was here, especially on my first game and trying to get rid of the nerves and slow the game down, just to have that support was really special.”
He got down 0-2 in the count against left-hander Brandon Williamson, who had retired five of the first six batters, but then worked a seven-pitch walk, leading to more cheers from the crowd.
“Felt like something out of a movie or something that you dream, honestly,” Westburg said of his first plate appearance. “Huge raindrops falling just trying to focus on picking up the baseball. It was kind of crazy.”
His walk — combined with Williamson’s wildness caused at least in part by the wet conditions — ignited a two-out rally, as Ryan McKenna and Jorge Mateo also drew free passes and Hays drove in two to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead and Westburg his first career run.
“His first at-bat, that was kind of a crazy one,” Hays said. “That takes a tremendous amount of patience, especially with the rain coming down.
“He played a great game tonight. A lot of firsts for him. He got his first run scored, first [RBI], first hit. Yeah, we’re really excited for him. He did a great job tonight.”
After the second rain delay ended following 1 hour, 44 minutes, Westburg achieved another first in his second plate appearance by knocking in his first run. With the bases loaded, Westburg hit a potential ground ball double play to De La Cruz at third base, but he hustled down the first base line to beat out the throw from second, scoring Santander, who remained hot after his recent power surge, and Urías on a throwing error to put the Orioles up 4-1.
Two innings later, he flashed the leather at second base, ranging up the middle on a grounder, backhanding the ball and deftly flicking it over the bag for Mateo, who spun and fired barely late to first, nearly turning a miraculous double play.
While his first two times up resulted in firsts, he checked off the biggest box in his third. Despite swinging at a pitch a few inches inside in the fifth inning, Westburg was able to fist the 3-2 slider from Eduardo Salazar in between Cincinnati’s shortstop and left fielder for his first MLB hit, a cool 64.9 mph single.
“A relief,” Westburg said of his first knock. “Wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Any hit, I’m going to take, and to knock the first one off in the first game is pretty cool.”
The Orioles scored three runs that inning — the first on a double by Urías, the second on a sacrifice fly by Mullins and the third on a wild pitch. They pushed three more across in the seventh on a double from Hays, who went 2-for-5 to boost his AL-best batting average to .319, and a two-run single from Rutschman.
Irvin allowed a run in the first on a two-out single from Spencer Steer, but he retired the next seven batters before the rain delay ended his night. Zimmermann (1-0), a Baltimore-area native, followed with two scoreless innings before surrendering a two-run homer to Steer in the sixth.
Westburg grounded out in his final two at-bats, ending his night 1-for-4 with all the firsts.
Monday was about three years and two weeks to the day Westburg became an Oriole when Baltimore drafted him No. 30 overall in the 2020 draft. Westburg, ranked as the club’s fourth-best prospect and No. 41 in the sport by Baseball America, methodically progressed through the minors with consistent success, but it took him 158 Triple-A games — more than twice as many as Gunnar Henderson and nearly three times as Rutschman — to reach his final destination.
However, he said the longer journey didn’t hamper his enjoyment of his debut. Did his first day as a big leaguer meet his expectations?
“Surpassed ‘em,” Westburg said.
Around the horn
- Hyde provided updates on several of the Orioles’ players on the injured list. Catcher James McCann (left ankle sprain, 15-day IL) has started participating in baseball activities, including taking batting practice on the field before Monday’s game. Pitchers John Means (Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery recovery, 60-day IL) and Austin Voth (left elbow discomfort, 15-day IL) both played catch Monday, Voth for the first time since landing on the shelf June 14. Relievers Mychal Givens (right shoulder inflammation, 15-day IL) and Dillon Tate (right forearm strain, 60-day IL) are in the process of getting “further testing,” Hyde said, back in Baltimore, with the goal for Givens to play catch later this week and then restart his minor league rehabilitation assignment in Triple-A Norfolk.
- The Orioles on Monday afternoon signed catcher Meibrys Viloria to a minor league contract. He will report to Sarasota to work out and begin his game progression, the team said. Viloria, 26, debuted in 2018 with Kansas City, playing parts of three seasons with the Royals. He made brief appearances in the big leagues in 2021 with the Rangers and in 2022 with the Cleveland Guardians. He’s a career .198 hitter across 280 plate appearances.
Reds at Orioles
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM
Reds at Orioles
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM
Source: Berkshire mont