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Luggage, laundry and a chaotic lifestyle: Orioles shuttle players adjusting to challenging role

Logan Gillaspie doesn’t hang his clothes up.

He figures, what’s the point? As one of several players who bounce back and forth from the Orioles and their Triple-A team, the relief pitcher has decided to live as a nomad.

“I live out of my suitcase,” Gillaspie said. “If I wear something and it’s dirty, I put it in the laundry. I’ll wash it and then put it back in my suitcase because I already know I’ll be up and down and up and down.”

The chaotic lifestyle is one that Gillaspie, a relief pitcher with Baltimore for the third time this season, has gotten used to. In addition to Gillaspie, the Orioles have three players on their 26-man roster who have frequented the shuttle, including infielder Joey Ortiz and catcher Anthony Bemboom.

“I think as well as you possibly can,” manager Brandon Hyde said when asked how those players have handled that role. “It’s definitely not easy. I give them a lot of credit. When they go back down, it’s with a great attitude and a good mindset to try to get back up here and perform well to come back up here. To be on that shuttle a little bit, they want to be here. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you have to go back down, but I give them a lot of credit for how they’ve taken it.”

Gillaspie, who was recalled five times last season in the same role, broke spring training in the Orioles’ bullpen and was among the team leaders in appearances through the first three weeks of the season. The 26-year-old spent the next month with the Norfolk Tides before being recalled for just one game in mid-May. His most recent stint began earlier this week when he joined the team in St. Petersburg, Florida, for its two-game series versus the Tampa Bay Rays.

Bemboom, meanwhile, lives the shuttle life more than perhaps any other player in the organization. His current stint with the team is his second — both because backup backstop James McCann was placed on the injured list — but Bemboom is also one of a few catchers who spends time on the Orioles’ taxi squad.

The 33-year-old doesn’t quite live out of his suitcase the way Gillaspie does, but he’s always ready in case he gets the call. The perpetual possibility that he’s asked to join the team — either as the taxi squad catcher or, in this case, as the backup to Adley Rutschman — is why Bemboom is a stickler about one task in particular.

“Right when I get home, I always do my laundry,” Bemboom said. “Because you don’t know where you’re gonna be 24 hours from now.”

Of course, luggage and laundry are far from the biggest challenges shuttle players face. Performing in the major leagues is hard enough, but doing so without consistent playing time is almost impossible.

“It can be tough if you let the stress of the situation take over you,” Bemboom said. “But I think that’s one thing I’ve learned from being in this situation: You’ve just got to take each moment for what it is and try to slow the game down.”

Take Ryan O’Hearn, for example. He’s struggled for most of his career in a part-time role, but now as a near-everyday player, he’s been one of Baltimore’s best hitters this month. He’s on his second stint with the Orioles after opening the year in Triple-A.

Ortiz is in the opposite position. Before this season, Ortiz was an everyday player as one of the best prospects in the Orioles’ minor league system. Now in the majors for the third time in the past two months, the 24-year-old has just 34 plate appearances across the 22 games he’s been on the roster.

“It’s a challenge,” Ortiz said. “For me personally, I’m used to playing every day. Coming up here and having to be ready off the bench, be ready at any time — it just gives me something to focus on, something to work on to better my game.”

When he learned he was rejoining the team for the third time, Ortiz said it was a different feeling than when he first got the call in late April that he was going to make his major league debut.

“It’s always nice to come up and try to help the team win,” he said. “When I debuted, there was this nervousness, anxiousness. Now that I come up here, it’s baseball time.”

In his five-year major league career, Bemboom has received the call nine times since debuting with the Rays in May 2019.

“It’s always exciting when you’re going up to the big leagues, but I think I’ve learned to kind of almost be a little more regimented about it now,” he said. “I know what I need to do and what to take care of.”

Between his minor and major league career, Bemboom has played for five organizations, including three big league clubs and 13 minor league affiliates.

Being a journeyman is how he’s sustained an 11-year professional career, but that comes with its drawbacks — none harder than spending time away from his wife and almost 2-year-old son.

“That’s by far the biggest challenge of this life is missing that time, especially with young children,” Bemboom said. “It’s always tough. It’ll wear on you, for sure.”

Gillaspie’s baseball life has also been an odyssey, with a professional career that began in the independent leagues in 2017. He made his major league debut with the Orioles last season, and he’s been living out of his suitcase ever since. The shuttle life is hard, but it’s better than the alternative, Gillaspie said.

“I’m just happy whenever I get to go up there.”

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Source: Berkshire mont

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