Notes: Urías to IL; Akin sharp vs. Phillies

September 23rd, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- The Orioles shook up their roster on Wednesday with 11 games to play, placing on the 10-day injured list amidst a flurry of moves. The right adductor strain that Urías had managed for weeks now ends a productive season for the infielder, who played himself into the Orioles’ regular infield mix over the last three months.

The club also recalled rookie infielder Jahmai Jones and right-hander Konner Wade from Triple-A Norfolk, optioned recently claimed righty Joey Krehbiel to Norfolk and designated Cesar Valdez for assignment. Valdez can remain in the organization if he clears waivers.

The moves clear room for more regular at-bats for Jones, the club’s No. 18 prospect per MLB Pipeline, who debuted to much excitement last month, though he hit just .164 and struggled defensively in 18 games. The Orioles were receiving more regular production from Urías after he filled in admirably for Freddy Galvis at shortstop in July. Urías remained a solid contributor at second and third in the ensuing months.

All told, the 27-year old slashed .279/.361/.412 with seven homers, 38 RBIs and a 110 OPS+ in 85 games while playing three positions. His 1.9 bWAR quietly ranked fifth among Orioles in 2021. His .361 OBP ranked second among O’s position players, behind only Cedric Mullins.

Initially signed out of the Mexican League by the Cardinals, Urías was claimed off waivers by Baltimore on Feb. 11, 2020, after falling victim to a roster crunch in St. Louis. He debuted down the stretch in ’20, hitting .360 with a home run in 10 games, then emerged as the Orioles’ emergency shortstop when Galvis went down with a groin strain in July.

Urías started primarily at second after Galvis was traded to the Phillies at the Deadline, outshining Richie Martin, Jones, Kelvin Gutierrez and others thrust into the Orioles’ patchwork infield rotation. That production should position Urías well for a regular utility role come 2022.

Points for Akin
The Orioles are finishing the season with three young left-handers in their rotation who they began the year hoping would assert themselves as potential long-term pieces on their staff. That didn’t happen for Keegan Akin, Alexander Wells or Zac Lowther, who now have the opportunity to make final lasting impressions down the stretch before 2022 Spring Training. The performance Akin delivered in Wednesday's 4-3 loss qualified as such.

Lined up opposite NL Cy Young candidate Zack Wheeler, Akin held the playoff-hopeful Phillies in check before Philadelphia jumped ahead against the Orioles' bullpen. The resulting defeat overshadowed one of Akin’s best outings of the year, with the left-hander striking out six across 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball.

“Just trying to stick with the good work in the bullpen and stay committed to that, grind through five, six innings and finish strong,” Akin said.

It’s been an inconsistent ride for Akin all year. He didn’t make the team out of Spring Training, then missed several weeks due to a kitchen knife accident that lacerated his left hand. Inserted into the rotation in late April, Akin lost each of his first eight decisions and pitched to a 7.92 ERA through Aug. 20. He followed with a pair of one-run starts, both wins. Akin then pitched to a 7.07 ERA in his previous three starts before Wednesday’s solid effort.

Looking ahead, Akin is in line to get at least one more start, perhaps two if he takes the ball on the season’s final day. Lowther (9.61 ERA) and Wells (7.96) start Thursday and Friday, respectively, with likely another turn through the rotation after that.

“[We’re looking for] just improvement overall, general improvement, generally feeling more comfortable up here and general command from all three,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Keegan’s offspeed stuff has gotten better in the second half. I’d like to see that continue to improve. More confidence in his slider and his changeup, more depth in his slider. The other guys haven’t had a ton of appearances but you’d like to see a little better command out of all three.”