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Orioles' Low-A Delmarva affiliate owns minors-best record as it works toward development goals

Orioles infield prospect Cadyn Grenier throws to first in a recent Shorebirds game.
Orioles infield prospect Cadyn Grenier throws to first in a recent Shorebirds game. (Joey Gardner/FotoJoe)

The remedy for the winningest team in all of professional baseball after its worst loss of the season, naturally, is a 10:30 a.m. game the next day that allows it to just get back to winning as quickly as possible.

That's exactly how the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds, the Orioles' South Atlantic League affiliate, used Thursday's date with Greensboro. After the Grasshoppers won the first game of the series, 9-0, on Wednesday, the Shorebirds won, 5-2, on Thursday to improve to a minor league-best 25-5.

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Manager Kyle Moore said Thursday that while they're all there for development, especially at the lowest rung of the full-season ladder, the way the Shorebirds have played the first month of the season certainly makes that goal easier.

"I think it just improves the overall environment so much," Moore said. "We're doing a lot of things developmental-wise, but when you go on the field and you have that win at the end of the night, it's just really good for the environment. It just provides the right environment to show up the next day and chip away, maybe get a little bit better again. I know the minor leagues are not about winning, but it certainly helps your teaching points, that's for sure."

The Shorebirds' roster is a mix of some of the youngest, most promising players in the Orioles' system and a group of college draftees for whom the daily grind of a full minor league season isn't as significant a jump as for a younger player.

Thursday's starter, 19-year-old Grayson Rodriguez, was the Orioles' first-round draft pick in 2018, and is one of two teenagers in the rotation, along with left-hander Drew Rom. A rotation that has also included Blaine Knight, Ofelky Peralta, Hector Guance, Nick Vespi and Gray Fenter has helped the team to a 3.07 ERA. Moore credits them with keeping things so successful for the Shorebirds.

"I would say the starting pitching and the bullpen has been just outstanding," Moore said. "Everyone who has had their number called, night in, night out, no matter what the situation is — if they're coming in the game clean or coming in the game bases loaded, starters have done a really nice job for the first five or six innings, and the bullpen has been outstanding."

Orioles pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez with the Shorebirds.
Orioles pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez with the Shorebirds. (Joey Gardner/FotoJoe)

Offensively, infielder Adam Hall and a host of former college outfielders — including Robert Neustrom and Robbie Thorburn — have led the way. Moore said they don't have a player "that's absolutely beating the world in there, but we do have a really resilient bunch of guys who are getting some timely hits."

"We're just having fun, man," said infielder Cadyn Grenier, the Orioles’ second first-round pick in 2018, after his three-hit day helped clinch win No. 25. "When we get down, we never panic, and when we aren't scoring, we never panic. You see that in a lot of the games we score in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning. We had the one game [April 13 against Lakewood] where we got no-hit through 8 1/3, and came back, scored seven runs or whatever it was to win in the ninth.

"That's the thing with this team. Nobody panics. Everybody just hangs out and chills and has a good time with what we do, and we're obviously doing pretty well at it."

When all of these players' minor league resumes round out and, at some point, they're assessed for a major league job, no one will ask about the team's record in the South Atlantic League through the first month of 2019.

However, Moore sees some of the invaluable experiences that come with learning professional baseball that the players can carry with them as they develop going up the farm system.

Orioles pitching prospect Blaine Knight pitching for the Shorebirds.
Orioles pitching prospect Blaine Knight pitching for the Shorebirds. (Joey Gardner/FotoJoe)

With Moore, a former Orioles farmhand and coach in his first season at Delmarva, plus new hires in pitching coach Justin Ramsey, hitting coach Tom Eller and development coach Pat Leyland, the staff features some of the freshest voices in the Orioles’ farm system. Their task of breaking in these players — many of whom are in their first full season — is an important one.

"That's one of the cool parts about this level — you're not only teaching them the X's and O's of baseball, but you're teaching them how to be a pro," Moore said. "How to fail and come back and not give away that last at-bat. How to go 0-for-4 and get a nice knock in the fifth, how to make a play in the field when you are 0-for-5.

"In college, sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle and it's win-at-all-costs, or that coach gets fired. I think there's a good mix of high-school kids who never really got that, and also some college kids from some really good programs who kind of understand already how to do the little things that can make you a better player."

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