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Tuesday Bird Droppings: Where minor league baseball is back tonight

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The Orioles’ rebuild gets a major shot in the arm as O’s prospects finally return to professional competition.

2021 Baltimore Orioles Photo Day
Adley is ready. Are you?
Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

It’s here! It’s here! Today, 20 months after prospects last stepped onto a field for professional competition, minor league baseball officially returns from its all-too-long hiatus.

And for the Orioles, it can’t come soon enough. The pandemic-induced cancellation of the 2020 minor league season threw a major wrench in Mike Elias’ rebuilding plan for the organization. It clogged the prospect pipeline he’d begun to build and supplement, denying the Orioles’ young talent from honing their skills in a competitive environment and robbing them of precious development time. While the prospects weren’t just sitting around gathering dust — many got their work in at the Bowie alternate site in 2020 — it certainly wasn’t the same.

Tonight, though, that all changes. All four O’s affiliates — Norfolk, Bowie, Aberdeen, and Delmarva — will be in action for opening day, finally getting a chance to test their skills against actual opponents again. We’ll get to track the progress of Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, and all our other favorite prospects for the next five months, dreaming of a future when these baby birds arrive in the majors to make the Orioles a perennial contender. And we’ll be posting daily minor league recaps all season long here at Camden Chat, so be sure to check in every morning (as if you don’t already do that, dear readers).

It’s an exciting time in Birdland, friends. And it’s understandable if the major league Orioles find themselves upstaged for the time being.

Links

Orioles’ top minor league prospects finally return to action on Tuesday - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Few people are more excited for the minor leagues’ return than the O’s director of player development, Matt Blood. You might say that minor league baseball really gets his Blood pumping. (I’ll be here all week, folks.)

Adley Rutschman ready to begin first full pro season - Orioles.com
Remember how the O’s had the No. 1 overall pick for only the second time in franchise history, selected a generational talent at catcher, and then he just...didn’t get to play at all the next year? Kind of a bummer, huh? But finally, Orioles fans will get a whole season to see what Adley Rutschman can do.

Six key questions facing the Orioles farm system as minor-league seasons begin Tuesday – The Athletic
Among the questions Dan Connolly poses about the O’s minors is, “Will Heston Kjerstad play any affiliated ball in 2021?” It would be an incredible bummer if the Orioles’ 2020 top pick misses an entire season, but it’s understandable to play it safe with a guy who’s recovering from heart inflammation.

Galvis on getting back in lineup and trying to maintain a hot bat - Steve Melewski
Freddy Galvis suffered and then recovered from an adductor injury before I could even figure out what an “adductor” is.

Stewart removed from tonight’s lineup, Zimmermann optioned - School of Roch
DJ Stewart is banged up, which means we'll be seeing more of Ryan Mountcastle in the outfield for the time being. Hold on to your butts.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Two former O’s right-handers were born on this day: Joe Borowski (50) and Maryland-born Ryan Meisinger (27).

On this day in 1986, former Orioles manager and GM Paul Richards, pioneer of “The Oriole Way,” died at age 77.

May 4 is apparently the day for last at-bat O’s victories — the Birds have a whopping eight extra-innings wins on this date, four of them walkoffs. Among the more memorable ones:

  • In 1961, the O’s scored three runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game against the Angels, thanks to a home run by reigning AL Rookie of the Year Ron Hansen. Four innings later, Hansen delivered again, ripping a two-run single in the 13th that led the Birds to an 8-7 win.
  • In 1999, Hall of Famer Harold Baines almost single-handedly led the Orioles to victory against the White Sox despite not entering the game until the ninth inning. With the O’s trailing by two in the bottom of the ninth, Baines delivered a pinch-hit RBI triple, one of just three triples in the lumbering Baines’ seven-year career with the Orioles. He later scored the tying run, and in the bottom of the 10th, he stepped up with the bases loaded...and crushed a walkoff grand slam.
  • And in 2012, the O’s scored two runs in the top of the 13th at Fenway Park to beat the Red Sox, 6-4, in the third of what would become 16 straight extra-innings wins that year. But it wasn’t even the most memorable extra-innings game of that series — two days later was the famous Chris-Davis-gets-the-win game.