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Heston Kjerstad, Orioles’ second overall draft pick in 2020, ‘finally back to swinging the bat’ after heart issue | NOTES

PHILADELPHIA — About a month ago, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias announced that Heston Kjerstad, Baltimore’s second overall pick from the 2020 draft, would begin working out at the club’s Sarasota, Florida, complex. That work has progressed to the batter’s box.

A slugging outfielder out of the University of Arkansas, Kjerstad posted a video Tuesday of him taking swings on the backfields of the Orioles’ Ed Smith Stadium complex. The 22-year-old has yet to play for a Baltimore affiliate because of a bout of myocarditis (heart inflammation), preventing the left-handed power that captured the Orioles’ interest from being displayed in their farm system.

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“Finally back to swinging the bat again!” Kjerstad’s video was captioned.

Kjerstad initially arrived in Sarasota in the spring, only for a recurrence of his heart issue to cause the Orioles to shut him down in June. Given the nature of his health issue, the club has been understandably cautious with Kjerstad, who they signed for $5.2 million. In 148 games at Arkansas, Kjerstad batted .344/.423/.589 with 36 home runs.

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DJ Stewart done for the season

Outfielder DJ Stewart was placed on the 60-day injured list Tuesday with an osteochondral defect in his right knee, an injury manager Brandon Hyde said has been bothering him for much of the second half. He will undergo surgery in the next couple of weeks to clean up the knee but is expected to be ready by spring training.

Stewart, 27, ends the season batting .204/.324/.374 with 12 home runs. His 13.8 walk percentage far and away leads the Orioles and ranks in the top 15 of all major leaguers with at least 300 plate appearances.

The Orioles' DJ Stewart, sitting in the dugout during the sixth inning of a game against the Kansas City Royals on Sept. 7 in Baltimore, won't play again this season.
The Orioles' DJ Stewart, sitting in the dugout during the sixth inning of a game against the Kansas City Royals on Sept. 7 in Baltimore, won't play again this season. (Julio Cortez/AP)

“I think DJ’s shown flashes of the kind of hitter he can be,” Hyde said. “I think the knee has bothered him really the second half. It’s hard to produce when your base doesn’t feel good underneath you. You look at what [Anthony] Santander’s been going through, too [with his sprained left ankle]. Now he’s feeling better, so his swing looks different, he’s got more bat speed.

“I just think that DJ never kind of got going this year. I think he showed spurts. He obviously has above-average power. I thought he was making strides defensively in the first half, then didn’t play as much outfield in the second half, partially because of the knee. But I love the way he walks. I think he takes a good at-bat, now it’s just about putting up a little bit better numbers and continuing to improve.”

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With the open 40-man roster spot, the Orioles selected right-handed reliever César Valdez’s contract, adding him as a relief option ahead of Tuesday night’s bullpen game.

Krehbiel claimed from Rays

The Orioles’ most recent waiver claim from the pitching factory that is the Tampa Bay Rays has panned out well thus far in right-hander Chris Ellis. They went back to that well Tuesday to claim right-hander Joey Krehbiel from the American League East leaders.

Krehbiel, 28, pitched one scoreless inning for the Rays on Saturday in his first major league appearance since working three scoreless innings in 2018 for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has 589 strikeouts in 492 career minor league innings. The Orioles have yet to decide whether he will join them or report to Triple-A Norfolk.

To open a roster spot, right-hander Manny Barreda was designated for assignment. Also, right-hander Dusten Knight cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A.

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