One of the first cuts from major league camp this spring, Orioles outfield prospect DJ Stewart is putting himself back on the radar with a torrid May at Triple-A Norfolk that has the attention of the Orioles' front office and manager Brandon Hyde.
Stewart, the Orioles' first-round pick in 2015, entered Sunday batting .487/.521/1.077 with five home runs and six doubles in 12 games to raise his season average from .202 to .293 in just a few weeks.
"He's swinging the bat great," Hyde said. "I think he's hitting .470 in May with some power, and driving the ball — a lot of those guys are swinging the bat well. They're putting up some nice numbers. That's what we want. You want those guys in the minor league to perform and have to make decisions about you, and you want to push people ahead of you. All those guys in Norfolk are swinging the bat well."
Stewart, catcher Chance Sisco (.267 batting average with seven home runs and an .880 OPS), and infielder Ryan Mountcastle (.321 with five home runs and an .839 OPS) have been leading the charge for a Tides team stocked with big names who, in another circumstance, might be in the majors, but instead are finishing off their development in Triple-A.
With Cedric Mullins also there trying to regain his swing after a rough start in the big leagues and Austin Hays likely playing his way to Norfolk after being sent to High-A Frederick after a spring training thumb injury, there's plenty to like on that Tides roster under manager Gary Kendall.
Hyde said the performances of late at Norfolk are one of the bright spots that he and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias see on the farm, and they've had conversations about all those players of late.
"We talk every day about our club, but we talk every day about organizational stuff as well and what's happening in other places," Hyde said. "We love the way some of the lower-level guys are throwing the ball, and some of our guys in Triple-A are swinging the bat. Everything's pretty positive right now."
Hyde said he's seen improvement in the last few days from struggling infielder Renato Núñez, who pulled his average above .300 with a two-hit day April 24 against the Chicago White Sox but is 6-for-65 with 24 strikeouts and one walk in 18 games since.
"He's starting to swing the bat a little bit better," Hyde said. "He's just been so pull-conscious because he's just trying to come out of a tough time, I'd just love to see him stay in the middle of the field. I feel like he's a little more square and staying in the middle the last few games."
Ramirez optioned after start
Right-hander Yefry Ramirez had a difficult assignment Sunday, starting the series finale against the Cleveland Indians after not pitching in a game since May 8.
He allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits with four walks in 3 1/3 innings to take the loss, then was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game, presumably to get more consistent work.
The Orioles bullpen came out of this stretch of six games in five days in decent shape otherwise, with Shawn Armstrong, Mychal Givens and Branden Kline all pitching once and staying rested for the Yankees series. The Orioles could add someone capable of multiple innings to replace Ramirez and spell the struggling Gabriel Ynoa.