Joey Ortiz makes Baltimore Orioles history
By Brian Barr
Joey Ortiz made his major league debut on Thursday, April 27, 2023 and promptly made his way into the Baltimore Orioles record books. The Orioles were entering a four game series in Detroit after sweeping the Tigers just a few days earlier. The Birds needed to make a change knowing that they were projected to face three left-handed starters while Austin Hays deals with a minor ailment. The Orioles, who have designed themselves as a left-handed hitting team because of the new dimensions of Camden Yards, wanted to infuse the lineup with a right-handed bat. Enter Ortiz.
Ortiz was drafted by the Orioles in 2019 (the same draft the yielded Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson) out of New Mexico State. Ortiz has made his way up through the Orioles farm system and has been a star on a dominant Triple-A Norfolk Tides team. In 16 games this season, Ortiz was hitting .359/.389/.500 for the Tides while playing second base and shortstop. Ortiz was also already on the Orioles 40 man roster giving him a slight edge over other Tides stars, Jordan Westburg and Connor Norby.
The Orioles starting second baseman, Adam Frazier, has struggled with the bat recently and is a left handed hitter. Backup second baseman, Terrin Vavra, has only played in a limited capacity and has been mostly used as a super utility player. Vavra also bats left-handed and with Frazier's ability to also play the corner outfield positions, Vavra became expendable, at least for the time being.
Ortiz was immediately put into the starting lineup at second base and batting ninth. After being robbed of a hit in his first career plate appearance by Akil Baddoo making a tremendous diving catch, Ortiz again stepped the plate in the fifth inning. With two runners in scoring position and two outs, Ortiz utilized a Baltimore chop to bounce the ball over Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson and into right field.
Ortiz had his first career hit and two RBIs to go with it. That brought the O's back into the game making the score 3-2 Tigers after five innings. Ortiz added a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, again bringing the Orioles within one run of the Tigers now 4-3.
The three RBI's in Ortiz's major league debut tied the Orioles record. The only other time it happened in Orioles history was over 50 years ago when Don Baylor had three RBI's in his debut in 1970. The franchise record was actually set by Bob Nieman when he had four RBI's in his debut for the St. Louis Browns in 1951, before the organization moved to Baltimore in 1954. Baylor went on to have quite a career, including winning the American League MVP in 1979. Maybe someday Ortiz can emulate that accomplishment as well.
With his family in attendance Ortiz finished the game 1-3 with those three RBI's. Ortiz also handled his only opportunity in the field well, receiving a ground ball off the bat of former Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop. Ortiz fielded the ball cleanly, made a good throw to Jorge Mateo at second base, and Mateo completed the double play. The Orioles went on to win the game 7-4 giving them a season series win over the Tigers. Not a bad day for the newest Oriole.
Ortiz gets Friday night off due to inclement weather. The Tigers were projected to start Eduardo Rodriguez, another left hander, who just a few days ago carried a perfect game against the Orioles through 6.2 innings. With the Birds now scheduled to face Rodriguez and fellow lefty Matthew Boyd in a double header on Saturday, it's safe to assume Ortiz will be back in the lineup for at least one if not both of those games.