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Orioles officially promote prospect Heston Kjerstad in flurry of roster moves

They didn’t even place Ryan Mountcastle on the injured list to do it.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Baltimore Orioles
Heston Kjerstad in action in spring training.
Photo by George Kubas/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Another Orioles prospect is here to make his major league debut in the 2023 season. Following reports from Wednesday night that the O’s had cut short Heston Kjerstad’s appearance with Norfolk to get him to Baltimore, the team made the promotion official on Wednesday afternoon, selecting Kjerstad’s contract from the minors in a flurry of roster moves made ahead of the start of the series against the Rays.

Kjerstad gets “contract selected” rather than “recalled” because he was not already on the 40-man roster before this move. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Orioles recalled Terrin Vavra - who’s been injured - from the minors and placed Vavra on the 60-day injured list. To make room on the MLB roster, the Orioles optioned outfielder Ryan McKenna to Norfolk.

It’s a mildly surprising corresponding move if only because Ryan Mountcastle’s injury combined with the news of Kjerstad heading to Baltimore made it seem like those two things were connected. But Mountcastle avoids the injured list, at least for now, and Kjerstad appears. For the numerologists out there, Kjerstad will be wearing #13. That’s a real number.

In the minors this season, the 24-year-old former Orioles first round pick played in 122 games between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk, batting a combined .303/.376/.528 with 21 home runs. His performance at Bowie, where he was old for the level, tailed off a bit at Triple-A, where Kjerstad OPSed “only” .870 and hit 10 home runs in 76 games.

I didn’t expect the Orioles would try to inject any more rookie players into this pennant chase, but with the Orioles having more home games left than away, perhaps they feel it’s worth the chance to let Kjerstad take aim at the flag court and Eutaw Street. There are no left-handed starting pitchers coming in the Rays series, based on listed starters, and it seems that at most they might face four lefty starters after that. However, he is not in the starting lineup on Thursday night.

I hope it works. It is fantastic for Kjerstad to have finally made it after all the challenges he has gone through to even get to start his professional career.

In addition to Kjerstad-related moves, the Orioles also optioned reliever Nick Vespi and recalled reliever Bryan Baker from Norfolk. It’s been about six weeks since Baker was with the Orioles. Hopefully he pitches better with inherited runners this time, or at least isn’t asked to come in to situations with inherited runners. Baker’s 3.64 ERA and 1.310 WHIP in 45 games were otherwise mostly acceptable.