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Orioles promote prospect Jahmai Jones, designate Maikel Franco for assignment amid infield shuffle ahead of Angels series

Jahmai Jones’ long-awaited Orioles debut will come against his former organization.

On Monday, the Orioles called up Jones, a second baseman Baseball America rates as their 14th-best prospect, from Triple-A Norfolk ahead of Tuesday’s series opener with the Los Angeles Angels. Baltimore acquired Jones, who made his major league debut for the Angels last season, this offseason in a trade for right-hander Alex Cobb; the Orioles included $10 million toward Cobb’s salary in the deal.

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In addition to Jones, the Orioles will promote infielder Kelvin Gutiérrez, a source with direct knowledge of the roster moves confirmed, opening spots on the major league roster for the pair by designating third baseman Maikel Franco for assignment and optioning shortstop Richie Martin to Norfolk. The Orioles filled the 40-man roster spot opened with Franco’s DFA by reclaiming right-hander Conner Greene on waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had claimed Greene after Baltimore designated him earlier this month.

The roster shuffle comes with the Orioles trying to snap an 18-game losing streak, three shy of the franchise record. Former Oriole Dylan Bundy, who was the last to wear No. 37 for Baltimore before Jones does Tuesday, is Los Angeles’ scheduled starter for Tuesday’s game, with two-way star Shohei Ohtani lined up for the series’ second contest.

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Jones, who turned 24 earlier this month, was batting .238/.329/.417 with 10 home runs and 10 steals for Norfolk. With the Orioles’ production from their second basemen being the worst in baseball — their collective .607 OPS is the lowest of all 30 teams’ second base units — Jones has been viewed as a possible solution for most of the season, but the organization wanted him to improve defensively at the position. Jones, drafted in the second round in 2015, was exclusively an outfielder as a professional until 2018.

Franco was signed to a one-year deal late in spring training, with the club hoping he would provide some experience and right-handed power to their lineup. The latter never manifested. Franco batted .210/.253/.355 as Baltimore’s primary third baseman; he hasn’t ended a game with an average above .220 or an OPS above .700 since early May.

The Orioles have called up second baseman Jahmai Jones, pictured during a spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 13, from Triple-A Norfolk. Jones is ranked Baltimore's 14th-best prospect.
The Orioles have called up second baseman Jahmai Jones, pictured during a spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 13, from Triple-A Norfolk. Jones is ranked Baltimore's 14th-best prospect. (Steve Nesius)

“Franky’s one of the few guys we have that actually has piled some at-bats and games played in this league,” manager Brandon Hyde said Saturday. “Franky, for me, just never got going, and it’s been kind of an uphill climb for him. He never got really hot to get the numbers up to where he wants them to be.”

The Orioles acquired Gutiérrez in July in a trade for cash with the Kansas City Royals. After eight games with Baltimore, he hit .233/.266/.411 with the Tides. He and Ramón Urías will likely be the Orioles’ main third basemen, with Urías and Jorge Mateo figuring to handle shortstop with Martin optioned. In his first major league playing time in two years, Martin hit .227/.271/.318.

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After posting a 14.73 ERA in three appearances for the Orioles, Greene had two scoreless outings for the Dodgers before being designated for assignment. He’ll report to Triple-A Norfolk. There, he’ll join a bullpen that also includes right-hander César Valdez, who the team announced Sunday cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment after being designated for assignment himself.

MASNSports.com first reported Gutiérrez’s promotion.

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