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Meet Jordan Westburg, the Orioles’ 30th overall pick who didn’t think he’d be an Oriole

Meet Jordan Westburg, the Orioles’ 30th overall pick who didn’t think he’d be an Oriole

Jordan Westburg is just one of the newest faces of the Orioles’ rebuild. But he’s already got a leg up on his future teammates.

Selected 30th overall by the Orioles on Wednesday night, he’s already encountered the most notable face of the rebuild — Adley Rutschman. 

Westburg’s Mississippi State team lost to Rutschman’s Oregon State team in the 2018 College World Series. But it wasn’t for Westburg’s lack of production.

He is a prototype shortstop with a .285 batting average and developing power, which was enough for the Orioles to take him 30th overall.

“I’m still just high on life right now with this opportunity,” Westburg said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. “Whenever baseball starts back up, I can’t wait to get it going.”

Westburg posted career on-base and slugging percentages of .385 and .446, respectively, while in the SEC. And while he hit just eight home runs in his first two seasons, the power was coming around. 

He hit six homers in 2019 with 21 doubles and in the 16 games before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic shut down his final season at Mississippi State he already had two home runs and six doubles.

Orioles general manager Mike Elias said that his scouting staff liked Westburg’s ability at shortstop. In most cases at the amateur level, a team’s best player usually plays that spot. Westburg would like to stick at short, but if Baltimore wants to move him around the infield he can do that, too.

“He’s a guy who’s got power, he’s got above-average speed, he can throw, so there’s a lot to like here, and we think he can stay at shortstop,” Elias said. “He’s somebody that I think could’ve gone a couple picks earlier, in the first round, had things shaken out a different way.”

With Westburg’s ability to play multiple positions, his athleticism at 6-foot-3 and 203-pounds jumped out to the Orioles.

“I think probably the best part of my game is my athleticism, and the athleticism allows me to be versatile on the field," Westburg said. "I think it allows me to play an explosive type of baseball, and I think that explosive ability is what’s going to get me to the big leagues.”

Right up until the draft, however, Westburg didn’t envision himself in the Orioles’ organization. He said Baltimore was one of the last teams he spoke with over Zoom, which made it all that much more special when it selected him at the end of the draft’s first night.

“It was kind of weird," Westburg said. "The Orioles were one of the last teams I heard from. I heard from them the Friday before the week of the draft. To have them be the last team that I talked to and then to have the opportunity to be drafted by them just made it special. It made it feel like they were thinking of me that whole entire week leading up to the draft.”

After Heston Kjerstad’s selection at No. 2 overall, Baltimore doubled up on SEC bats with Westburg and continued the trend of adding college bats early in the draft. 

Westburg has seen a lot of Kjerstad in recent years and gave a succinct, deadpan scouting report on how to slow down the former Arkansas Razorbacks outfielder.

“Yeah, don’t throw him anything in the zone,” Westburg said.

With plans still unknown for how the Orioles will approach his development, it’s impossible to say what the next step for Westburg is. 

What both he, Kjerstad and the rest of the Orioles’ draft picks have in common, though, is they’re set to join an organization building from the ground floor. In that regard, he’ll have as good a chance as any draft pick to make his mark fast.

“It makes you feel like you’ve got a chance to be part of something special," Westburg said. "I know that Heston was drafted before me and then Adley last year. Just being able to have my name up with those two guys and have the chance to kind of rise through this organization and try to make an impact is something special.”

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Orioles bats nearly non-existent once again in third-straight loss to motivated, reconstructed Marlins

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USA Today Sports Images

Orioles bats nearly non-existent once again in third-straight loss to motivated, reconstructed Marlins

At around 10 p.m. Wednesday night, the Orioles finally squeezed out a run, seemingly by divine intervention. 

It happened when a chopper from outfielder Austin Hays bounced off two Marlins infielders and into the outfield which allowed Anthony Santander to score and cut the lead in half. The problem was, it was the Orioles’ first run of the game, third hit of the game and ninth hit of the series. 

The Orioles, up until Hays’ single, had gone 21 ⅔ scoreless innings against a Marlins team that had 18 replacement players from its Opening Day roster due to an outbreak of COVID-19. The Marlins were a team that had to find pitchers that were simply available to throw major league innings, and they retired Orioles batters consistently through the first three games of the series.

Baltimore, operating as the road team at Camden Yards for the second half of a doubleheader, lost their third-straight in a 2-1 loss to the Marlins. The fourth game of the series will be Thursday. 

“I don’t want to take credit away from their guys, I thought they pieced it together fairly nicely out of the pen giving us some different looks,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “I don’t know if we’re trying too hard, or...I’m not what it is, to be honest with you. It’s one of those little funks that we’ve gone through in a couple days.”

Ever since the second game of the season against the Red Sox, the Orioles have swung the bat particularly well, better than most thought they could. But all of those bats went silent after a series sweep of the Rays on Sunday, a series victory that left some with a brief, optimistic scenario that the Orioles could contend for a playoff spot. 

Since that win over the Rays, though, the offense hasn’t just been quiet, it’s been silent. 

The Orioles were shut out Tuesday and in game one of the doubleheader Wednesday in 4-0 and 1-0 losses, respectively. Were it not for Hays’ single, it would’ve been three straight games with a zero on the scoreboard.

RELATED: MARLINS TAKE OVER CAMDEN YARDS AS HOME TEAM

“I can’t really put my finger on it,” Hyde said. “We’re not driving the baseball. I think guys are trying to do too much, carrying too big of a load, instead of trying to get the next guy up instead of trying to win every pitch. We’re having a tough time just getting on base to start a rally and putting good ABs together after it.”

After blazing starts to the year, some of the Orioles’ best hitters have hit a cold streak at the same time against a Marlins team that was cramped in a hotel room for more than a week.

Anthony Santander is just 2-for-10 in the series, Jose Iglesias and Rio Ruiz have been hampered by injuries and Hanser Alberto, after a staggering start to the year, is 0-for-11 in the series. 

“It’s not fun,” Iglesias said. “We just lost two games, but I think we’ve got to move forward. Tomorrow is another day. We’re going to get an opportunity to play the game and come back.”

But while the bats have failed, the pitching has thrived. In that regard, it makes the previous few days that much more infuriating for the Orioles.

In the last three games, the starters have been excellent. John Means, Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski have combined to throw 14 ⅔ innings and have allowed just eight hits, four earned runs and four walks. They’ve struck out 15 batters, too, as both Means and Cobb each allowed just one run in their starts. 

All three pitchers, however, received losses. 

“I don’t have an explanation for it except I really like the way we’re pitching,” Hyde said. “I think our offense will come around. I don’t think we’re going one run in three games continuously. We have proven we can score runs and we can swing the bats against really good pitchers. This series, for whatever reason, we’re not driving the baseball. We’re not grinding out at-bats the way that we did against the teams we played before.”

The Marlins, who are now 5-1, have seemingly released all their pent up energy through the team’s pitching staff. 

The Orioles, who dropped to 5-6 with the three losses, simply haven’t had an answer for a Marlins team that came out of quarantine with a stout pitching staff.

“I’ve been impressed with their pitching, for those guys to be shut down in a hotel and throw the way they’ve been throwing, they’ve done a nice job,” Hyde said. “I don’t think we’ve helped them out, I think we’ve expanded the strike zone, but I think they’ve come out with energy and we haven’t scored any runs.”

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Major League Baseball changes protocols after coronavirus outbreaks

Major League Baseball changes protocols after coronavirus outbreaks

After COVID-19 outbreaks on both the Marlins and the Cardinals, Major League Baseball has changed its protocols for dealing with coronavirus. 

The goal is to prevent any further outbreaks and continue on the path for a 60-game season.

“We recognize that these changes place additional burdens and restrictions on players and staff,’’ according to a copy of the memo obtained by USA TODAY Sports distributed to all MLB teams. “But if we desire to play, they are necessary to limit infections and, if someone does test positive, to keep the virus from spreading.”

According to the story published by Bob Nightengale, the league has taken some very serious measures in order to keep the spread of COVID-19 contained. 

If a player or member of the organization fails to follow the new protocols, there will be severe consequences.

“Any covered individuals — whether players or club staff — who are found to have repeatedly or flagrantly violated the protocols, including refusing to wear a face covering when required and reminded to do so,’’ the memo reads, “risks being prohibited from further participation in the 2020 season and postseason (in the case of players, subject to the just cause provisions in the Basic Agreement). The Commissioner’s Office will send written warnings prior to any such action being taken.’’

According to Nightengale, new protocols must include wearing face coverings in the dugout and clubhouse, with the exception of players on the field. Teams are now forced to reduce the traveling party to those who are absolutely essential to playing the games. Meetings are now strictly prohibited in hotel rooms, and each team must have a private large room at a hotel designed for eating meals and convening during meetings.

The moves came a week after the league was seemingly on the ropes after the Marlins and Cardinals had a combined 33 members of their organizations tested positive for COVID-19. 

The Marlins’ outbreak forced the Orioles-Marlins series to be postponed a week, and later to be fully played at Camden Yards with the Orioles operating as the road team for two games of the series.

“Everyone must be accountable for their own conduct because the careless or reckless actions of a few can impact the health and well-being of everyone,’’ the memo read.

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