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Broxton homers on 1st pitch he sees as Oriole

Outfielder was acquired from Mets on Wednesday
May 25, 2019

DENVER -- Keon Broxton wasn’t going to waste any time. Not after being relegated to a bench role the past couple of years and not being able to fulfill the potential he showed in a 20-home run, 21-steal season with the Brewers in 2017. So when he saw a 94

DENVER -- Keon Broxton wasn’t going to waste any time. Not after being relegated to a bench role the past couple of years and not being able to fulfill the potential he showed in a 20-home run, 21-steal season with the Brewers in 2017.

So when he saw a 94 mph Jeff Hoffman fastball as the first pitch of his first plate appearance in an Orioles uniform Friday night, he smashed it 474 feet onto the left-field concourse at Coors Field during Baltimore’s 8-6 walk-off loss to the Rockies.

Box score

“Walking up to the plate, I was thinking, if I get a good pitch to hit, I’m definitely gonna let it loose,” Broxton said. “I hadn’t seen a pitch in a while. I want to see where I’m at.”

The last pitch Broxton had seen before that Hoffman fastball came eight days earlier, when he took his final plate appearance as a member of the Mets before New York designated him for assignment. He was hitting .143 with one extra-base hit in 53 plate appearances, and he expressed his frustration with his limited playing time.

Then came opportunity: the Orioles acquired the 29-year-old center fielder from the Mets in exchange for $500,000 in international bonus pool money. He has an everyday role again, and Baltimore has filled its need for a starting center fielder after the club sent Cedric Mullins to Triple-A Norfolk following a very slow start at the plate.

Now the question is: Will Friday’s memorable home run be the spark that ignites a turning point in Broxton’s career, all the while benefiting his new club during its ongoing rebuild? He has the tools to be an exciting, dynamic player with his power, speed and defensive ability, and has shown flashes of brilliance in his career to this point.

Before Friday’s homer, before being traded by the Brewers to the Mets last January and before Milwaukee made a pair of franchise-altering free-agent signings by inking outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain the prior offseason, Broxton looked as though he could become a fixture in center at Miller Park.

Broxton’s ‘17 campaign was a minor revelation in Milwaukee. He slugged 14 of his 20 homers and stole 17 of his 21 bases in the first half, and according to Statcast's Outs Above Average, ranked as the 10th-most valuable outfield defender in the Majors, ahead of Jason Heyward, Juan Lagares and other Gold Glove Award winners.

But since then, he had played in only 85 games before his Orioles debut Friday, unable to see enough plate appearances to remain on the trajectory that season placed him on.

“Given whatever happened in the past, it’s made me who I am today,” Broxton said. “I don’t regret anything that happened back then. It’s made me better moving forward.”

Friday’s homer, which had an exit velocity of 109.0 mph, was the longest of the 34 Broxton home runs Statcast has tracked since 2015 (the previous long was 449 feet on Aug. 18, 2017 in the same park, off German Marquez). It was also the first home run he had hit since Game 3 of last year’s National League Division Series, also at Coors Field.

Overall, Broxton went 2-for-4 on the night, adding an eighth-inning infield single on which he displayed his speed, reaching 30.9 feet per second, according to Statcast (30 feet/second is considered elite).

The home run, though, almost didn’t happen at all.

“I was actually gonna bunt right then,” Broxton said. “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw [Nolan] Arenado back, and then like a couple seconds before the pitch came, I saw him creeping up. Then I’m like, I’m swinging right here.

“I’m glad I didn’t bunt.”

So are the Orioles, who are going to give Broxton the extended look he’s been craving, hoping those flashes of brilliance become sustained beams of light. It’s up to him to take advantage of the chance. He certainly doesn’t lack the confidence.

When asked before Friday’s game whether he thought he could replicate his 2017 campaign if given regular plate appearances, Broxton replied, "100 percent.”

He’s off to a pretty good start.

Straily to bullpen
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said before Friday's game that right-hander Dan Straily, who has struggled to a 9.09 ERA in nine appearances this season (eight starts) is headed to the bullpen for the time being.

"We're still listing [Monday's] starter as TBD, but Dan's going to be in the bullpen," Hyde said. "I think it's [good to] give him a breather, where he doesn't have to go out there and give us six or seven innings when he goes out on the mound.

"We'll try to get kind of the crispness of his stuff back, just being able to go short spurts with him. I think that if things go well, maybe he can get back in the rotation at some point. But we felt like the right thing to do for him was to get him in the bullpen."

In two seasons with the Marlins prior to joining Baltimore this year, Straily posted a 4.20 ERA over 56 starts.

Hyde said Monday's starter will come from the current active roster and be announced Saturday.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.