Double-A prospects ready for rebuild pressure
BOWIE, Md. -- Bruce Zimmermann has hoped for years that the Orioles would buy into a full rebuild. Save for the 2014 postseason and a few other recent winning years, the Baltimore native watched his favorite team endure 16 sub-.500 campaigns since his birth in 1995.
Zimmermann, like many Orioles fans, has waited patiently for a tear-down rebuild. What he didn't expect was to be a part of one.
The left-handed pitcher is one of 14 prospects the Orioles have acquired in the 2018 fire sale, and he's part of a new wave of reinforcements the organization hopes can return the club to competitiveness in the near future.
"As a lifetime Orioles fan, it's refreshing. I've seen the Orioles be really bad," said Zimmermann, who was acquired from Atlanta in the Kevin Gausman and Darren O'Day trade. "But it's refreshing to see that this must be like a rebuilding stage."
With such a bleak present and all eyes on the youth, has the pressure weighed on the next generation of Orioles?
"We were part of the Manny Machado trade, which was a big deal -- probably the biggest trade of the season," said Double-A Bowie infielder Rylan Bannon, whom the Orioles acquired from the Dodgers in mid-July. "I guess you could say that adds a little bit of pressure just because we are all coming over here part of that deal, and they obviously saw it in us. But at the end of the day, we are used to playing under pressure situations, and we're good under those situations."
"We have a lot of talent here, so I believe that down the road the Orioles will be all right," added Bowie catcher Brett Cumberland, who also came to the Orioles from Atlanta in the Gausman trade.
The noise of the expectations for the more-scrutinized Orioles farm system hits each individual prospect in a different way. Some hone in the pressure as motivation. Others, as creatures of habit, try to cancel it out.
"It's nice to get some recognition from people to say that you might be the next this person or you might be the next that, but at the end of the day, it doesn't change what you do on a daily basis," said the O's No. 4 prospect Austin Hays, who made his return to Double-A action Tuesday after two-plus months of ankle rehab. "You do all your stuff you need to do to continue to become a better baseball player, so that way when you do get your opportunity, you can make the most of it."
And for the hometown kid Zimmermann, he's become part of a new generation hungry to bring an end to the years of frustration he experienced growing up an Orioles fan.
"They traded for us for a reason," Zimmermann said. "Hopefully, down the line, we can make good on everything they see in us currently. Hopefully, that all comes to fruition, and we can bring some more winning seasons back to Baltimore."