Orioles call up their No. 2 prospect Cowser

July 5th, 2023

NEW YORK -- There are typically two reasons for a Minor League player to be scratched from a lineup -- an injury or an imminent promotion to the Majors.

was scratched from Triple-A Norfolk’s lineup prior to Tuesday’s game at Durham. The 23-year-old outfielder dealt with left quad tightness in late May/early June, but he’s fully healthy now. So his mind wandered as he sat in the dugout, watching his teammates but also wondering what was happening.

When Cowser was called into manager Buck Britton’s office after the game, it instantly became clear -- Cowser was heading to The Show.

“I sat there the whole game, just kind of pondering it, and when I walked in there, he was just smiling from cheek to cheek,” said Cowser, Baltimore’s No. 2 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 14 overall prospect. “So I was just like, ‘OK. I kind of got what’s going on.’”

The Orioles selected the contract of Cowser on Wednesday, and he joined the team at Yankee Stadium, where he started in left field and batted seventh. He was part of a lineup filled with homegrown talent, including catcher Adley Rutschman and shortstop Gunnar Henderson (a pair of former No. 1 overall prospects) and third baseman Jordan Westburg (Baltimore’s No. 3 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 32 overall prospect).

Cowser, who was selected by the O’s with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, was called up nine days after the team brought up Westburg. Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez and infielder Joey Ortiz (O’s No. 5 prospect and No. 65 overall) have also gotten their first callups and made their big league debuts this year.

“An exciting time for this team, an exciting time for the organization and the fans, to watch guys that [general manager] Mike [Elias] and his group have drafted, and drafted high, and have high expectations for,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Hopefully, Colton can come in here and fit in and play well.”

It’s not a huge surprise that Cowser has joined the Orioles. During a MASN broadcast this past weekend, Elias stated Cowser was “ready for a phone call” and that the timing would depend “on the circumstances at the Major League level.”

With Baltimore scuffling a bit to close out the first half -- it had lost six of its past seven games and 11 of 18 entering Wednesday -- Cowser could provide a spark over the final five games (two at New York and three at Minnesota) prior to the All-Star break.

Cowser has been raking at Triple-A Norfolk all year. In 56 games, he slashed .330/.459/.537 with 10 doubles, one triple, 10 homers and 40 RBIs. He may have gotten called up even earlier had he not missed two weeks due to left quad tightness from May 20 to June 3, a period during which outfielder Cedric Mullins went on the big league injured list with a right groin strain.

“We had to get him healthy, and he was just playing well down there,” Hyde said. “We’re not scoring a ton of runs here these last couple of weeks, so hopefully he can give us a little spark offensively.”

Cowser wasn’t intimidated by the stage on which his MLB debut was taking place -- a matchup between two American League postseason contenders at Yankee Stadium. He visited the ballpark during his childhood and had made several previous trips to New York City.

In fact, Cowser’s cousin, Emily Tanner, is a former Radio City Rockette. She was among the 20 family members and friends in attendance Wednesday night, along with Cowser’s parents, Dale and Anna; his brother, Ty; and his sister-in-law, Raegan.

Cowser also felt comfortable because of the many familiar faces in Baltimore’s clubhouse. That included his good friend Henderson, who helped Cowser prep for the big day and offered some words of wisdom.

“Been having to pretty much just catch him up on the lifestyle, how to dress here -- which he knew that he had to wear collared stuff,” Henderson said. “That, and then just, ‘Go out there and be yourself. You can put as much pressure as you want, but that’s not going to help you.’”

The primary focus for Cowser entering Wednesday was to just play another baseball game -- even if it was the biggest one of his life thus far. The first day of big league life seemingly didn’t feel that different for the calm, lighthearted guy from Houston as he met with the media before his first game and went through batting practice on the field.

Of course, he was only a few hours in at that point.

“I don’t think it’s really truly hit me yet,” Cowser said. “Ask me in a week and then we’ll see.”