Notes: Akin's kitchen mishap; alt. site update

April 24th, 2021

Two factors played into the Orioles’ decision to tab veteran lefty Wade LeBlanc for Saturday’s start against the A’s: LeBlanc’s vast experience -- having started 120 games across 13 big league seasons, including six for the Orioles in 2020 -- as well as an injury to a top prospect at their alternate site.

Manager Brandon Hyde said Saturday that No. 10 prospect Keegan Akin would’ve been considered for the assignment had he not cut his left index finger with a knife while making breakfast recently. The wound required stitches that must remain in for 10 days, per Hyde.

Akin, who did not make the O’s Opening Day roster after struggling this spring, last pitched in the alternate site team’s 8-7 win over the Nationals on April 14, allowing two runs over three innings in his only game appearance at the site. The left-hander went 1-2 with a 4.56 ERA across eight big league appearances down the stretch in 2020. 

For the past month, the Orioles alternate site in Bowie, Md., has functioned like an extended Minor League Spring Training, what would essentially be the club’s Triple-A team until the Norfolk season begins in early May. They’ve supplemented daily workouts with four exhibition games, playing the Nationals' alternate site club every Tuesday and Friday for the past two weeks. The Orioles won all four games thus far.

They’ve done so with contributions from some of the organization’s most MLB-ready prospects, many of whom should arrive in Baltimore by season’s end (many of the org’s top-rated but lower-level prospects, like No. 1 prospect Adley Rutschman, No. 2 prospect Grayson Rodriguez and No. 4 prospect DL Hall, are currently training at Minor League camp in Sarasota, Fla.).  

Here are the Orioles' top performers from the alternate training site:

Position players

2B Jahmai Jones
Alternate training site stats: 8-for-13, 2 2B, 2 HR

Jones played regularly but didn’t really battle for a roster spot this spring, hitting .136 in 18 Grapefruit League games after arriving from the Angels in the Alex Cobb trade. But he’s been red-hot at Bowie, posting multi-hit games in three of four contests and leading the team in homers.

The O’s are getting by patching things together at second base at the big league level, rotating Rio Ruiz and Ramón Urías there after jettisoning Yolmer Sánchez days before Opening Day. The opportunity for Jones there is obvious, particularly if he keeps hitting once the Triple-A season begins. The 23-year-old has not yet appeared at that level, though he did play in three big league games for the Angels in 2020. 

INF Richie Martin
Alternate training site stats: 4-for-8, 2 2B, BB

Martin spent most of the spring recovering from right hamate surgery, and ran out of time to battle for an Opening Day utility job as a result. He also missed all of 2020 with a broken left wrist, after hitting .208 with .581 OPS in 120 games as a rookie in 2019. He’s been productive at the alternate training site, but did not play in their most recent game, Friday night’s 11-5 win over the Nats. 

UTL Stevie Wilkerson
Alternate training site stats: 6-for-14, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI

Wilkerson hit .225 with 10 homers and a .669 OPS in 117 games in 2019, playing mostly center field but also filling in elsewhere around the diamond. He sat out 2020 with a broken right ring finger, and re-signed a Minor League deal to remain in the organization this winter. He profiles as depth at any of 5-6 different positions, but has fallen behind Martin and Jones in the infield and several outfielders already at the big league level.


LHP Zac Lowther
Alternate training site stats: 4 IP, ER, 5 SO, BB

The O’s No. 11 prospect, Lowther logged the O’s best alternate training site start to date in their 10-3 win over the Nats on Tuesday. He also showed as well as almost any young pitcher in camp this spring, tossing four scoreless innings in Grapefruit League play. Lowther’s innings will be monitored closely this year, like all the O’s young pitchers’ will.

But he’s also seen as more experienced and durable than most, having thrown 148 innings as recently as 2019. 

RHP Eric Hanhold
Alternate training site stats: 4 IP, 0 R, 10 SO

A tall, right-handed reliever, Hanhold got plenty of opportunities and showed flashes of impact stuff this spring (9 IP, 9 ER, 3 HR, 5 BB, 8 SO, 3 saves), but was also prone to allowing big innings. He’s been virtually unhittable at the alternate training site, firing four perfect frames and striking out 10 of 12 hitters he’s faced.

The 27-year-old has a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and could find himself closing games at Norfolk.