With both of the injured Orioles outfielders now activated from the injured list, time has run out on the MLB roster for now for prospect Colton Cowser. The team activated Aaron Hicks on Monday afternoon before the start of the series against the Padres. This was signaled over the weekend, with the expectation that Hicks would have a short rehab stint and then return to the team. That’s just what has happened.
Hicks, 33, is back in action after an absence of about three weeks. He left a game on July 24 after making a nice catch that also caused him to suffer a hamstring strain. It will be interesting to see whether the June version of Hicks (.858 OPS) or the July one (.637) is closer to how he performs now, and if it’s closer to the latter, what the Orioles do about that.
With Cedric Mullins returning to good health sooner than Hicks, it seems like Hicks should end up as more of a fourth outfielder kind of player than a regular starter. Mullins, Anthony Santander, and Austin Hays is not a bad outfield, though you can certainly want to see Santander get some time at DH or perhaps be subbed out in a ninth inning to protect a lead.
There’s also Hays’s post-All-Star break batting split of .182/.219/.253. It’s grim. Giving him some more rest and giving Hicks some more playing time does not sound like the worst idea, especially against left-handed pitchers, which has been the stronger side of Hicks’s platoon in 2023.
It is a bummer that Cowser’s performance did not force the team to find a way to keep him up here. His batting line over 77 plate appearances speaks for itself: .115/.285/.148. He’s taken some walks, but that’s about it. He has not done much to look like the guy who’d homered 10 times in 56 games for Triple-A Norfolk this season.
With games to win here and now, the Orioles have not been in a place to force Cowser in the lineup every day and have him work it out. He had only started 17 games since debuting on July 5. Hopefully the time back in the minors helps him to get back on track. He certainly still has his believers in the prospect-writing world, with Cowser holding on as the #14 prospect in MLB in the recent update from MLB Pipeline.