Orioles start season on a high note

By Cordell Woodland,
Special to the AFRO

The marathon that is the Major League Baseball season is underway and the storylines have already begun to pile up. The Baltimore Orioles have had their fair share of storylines to go along with mounting wins. 

Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, left, and relief pitcher Dillon Tate (55) celebrate after their baseball game against the Kansas City Royals on April 21 in Kansas City, Mo. The Orioles won 5-0. Baltimore is currently second in the AL East and off to a hot start this season. (Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The Orioles (14-7) are currently second in the AL East – behind the New York Yankees –  as they aim to repeat as division champs. 

The Orioles have shown themselves to be one of the top offensive teams in all of baseball with a hot start for the offense. The Orioles rank first in home runs, fourth in RBI, fourth in OPS, and fifth in run differential. If you’re going to play in the AL East you better be able to score and the Orioles can check that box. 

While the season is young there are plenty of storylines surrounding the Orioles. Let’s get all caught up:

Jackson Holliday gets the call

The number one prospect in baseball wasn’t able to make the opening day roster but he didn’t have to wait long to be called up. Jackson Holliday was called up on April 10 and has been a consistent name in the lineup ever since. Holliday has been struggling to figure out major-league pitching but he said he’s catching on. 

“It’s been a little different,” he said. “Just trying to adjust pitch-to-pitch. It’s obviously pretty difficult but I’m looking to build and get more comfortable with each at bat.” 

Holliday currently has a batting average of .037 with 15 strikeouts in 27 at-bats. Not great but a learning curve was inevitable and he should figure it out in the majors rather than continue to dominate Triple-A. 

Especially since it’s only April…

Colton Cowser off to a hot start

The Orioles have the reigning rookie of the year on their roster in Gunnar Henderson and they may have this year’s winner as well in Colton Cowser. He’s carried a hot bat to the plate since the start of the season and showcased it often. That was important because Cowser was coming off the bench to start the year so he didn’t have a ton of opportunities. 

Cowser has been in a rhythm so far this year as he’s already won AL Player of the Week (Apr.7-13). He’s tied for the team lead in RBI (15) to go along with 4 HRs. He’s got a batting average of .383 and an OPS of 1.178. When talking about how he’s feeling at the plate, Cowser said, “I’m feeling good. I’ve been putting in a lot of work.” 

That last part is showing for sure as he looks like a different player than the one we saw last year who looked overmatched. 

Gunnar Henderson looks like an MVP candidate

Gunnar Henderson is coming off a year where he won Rookie of the Year and now he looks like he’s got his sights set on the MVP. Gunnar has been a huge spark for the Orioles at the top of their lineup. He leads the team with 6 HRs and he leads the team in WAR (0.8). 

The good thing about Gunnar is that he can give you highlight plays on both offense and defense. The Orioles have used him at third base mostly in the past but this season he’s returned to his natural position of shortstop. Standing at 6’3, he’s one of the bigger shortstops but that hasn’t stopped him from making athletic plays in the infield. 

Corbin Burnes as good as advertised

Just before teams began to report to spring training, the Orioles made a blockbuster trade to acquire a true ace pitcher in Corbin Burnes. Burnes, who joined the Orioles from the Milwaukee Brewers, is known as one of the best pitches in baseball. He was the NL Cy Young Award winner in 2021 and so far he’s looked the part for the Orioles. 

Burnes has been a necessity at the top of the rotation for the Orioles this year as they’re dealing with health issues to starting pitchers. He currently leads Orioles starting pitchers in ERA (2.28) and WHIP (.093). He has looked flat-out dominant at times while also grinding through some starts. Burnes has given the Orioles an elite pitcher who can take the ball every five days. He’s come along at a time the club desperately needed it.

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