When the Orioles' assigned supplemental first-round draft pick Cadyn Grenier to Low-A Delmarva last summer, it was done with the assumption that they'd always have to keep him a step ahead of the prior year's highly drafted shortstop, Adam Hall, who was at Short-A Aberdeen.
But with a new regime in charge and no real rush on the development of the players executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias inherited, Hall and Grenier were sent to Delmava together last month to begin a parallel development track that could not only help push them but make them more versatile.
"That's a luxury," Delmarva manager Kyle Moore said. "Before I came here, I was going, 'Can I play both of them at short and second?' Everybody was like, 'I don't know. I don't know what we want to do there, I don't know if we want to play Cadyn at second, or Adam.'
"What we came up with and what we decided at the very top is we were going to play both of them equal at short and second, make them as versatile as we can. That's a luxury. With the pitching staff that we have, if a ball is hit on the ground in the middle, we're out. … Both of them have plus range and both of them basically make every routine play. Not normal to see that in Low-A ball."
For Grenier, the 37th overall pick last summer out of Oregon State, sharing the infield with another highly touted player is nothing new. He played alongside No. 4 overall pick Nick Madrigal in the Beavers' infield. He feels as if both he and Hall, who was selected 60th overall in 2017, can benefit from the setup.
"It's been nice, because the nice thing is we switch off," Grenier said. "It gives us more versatility because now if the next club or something needs a second baseman, either of us could go up there and play second, even though we're both shortstops. For us to play with each other and try to help each other and push each other a little bit, it elevates our games just by being around each other."
Each is carrying on last year's form with the high-flying Shorebirds. Hall, who struggled in his first month at Aberdeen last summer, tore through the second half of the season and hit .378 after Aug. 1 to win the organizational Player of the Month award and raise his average to .293 for the year. He hit .354 this April to win his second straight organizational award, and he homered Friday in a two-hit day to raise his average back to .310.
Grenier, who came out of Oregon State with a standout defensive reputation but questions about his bat, hit .216 with Delmarva last year and entered Saturday batting .259 this season. He followed a three-hit day Thursday with another hit Friday to raise his batting average in May to .345.
Despite Grenier’s pedigree, Moore said he's seen some of the recent success help propel the 22-year-old. He credited Grenier for never carrying it into the field. He noted the Shorebirds’ April 30 game against Columbia, when Grenier struck out in all five of his plate appearances but in the ninth inning of a tight game made a sliding play up the middle and started a double play "nobody else in the league could turn" to help Delmarva to another win.
"I think Cadyn's a really competitive person," Moore said. "Anytime you get a day like this where we're really getting a lot of work and really trying to get that offensive approach up to a level — when you have that type of success it's like, ‘Man, there it is.’ It lets us take a little pressure off. I do think Cadyn puts a little bit of pressure on himself. A high pick, big program, national championship.
"He's a guy and he's very much expected to be a guy. Sometimes, when we have an afternoon game like [Thursday] and he pops a homer and gets three hits, it's kind of like a weight, I feel like, is lifted off his shoulders."
Phillips optioned for Yacabonis
Right-hander Evan Phillips was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday afternoon, and was replaced by right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis, after Phillips hit a rough stretch this month.
"Well, we want to get Jimmy here, but felt like it was a good time for Evan to go down, work on a couple things we talked about with him this morning," manager Brandon Hyde said. "Evan came up here and threw the ball great. His last few appearances obviously haven't gone the way he would have liked them to.
“We just felt like he's a young guy with a huge career ahead of him. I love his stuff. He's going to be back up here shortly. We just thought the right thing to do was to have him go down, give him a few appearances there, work on a few things we talked about and come back up."
Yacabonis had a 6.32 ERA in 10 appearances before being optioned to Norfolk on April 28. He has allowed two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings over three appearances with the Tides.
Around the horn
Hyde said outfielder Austin Hays (thumb) would join an affiliate from extended spring training by the beginning of the coming week, though he won't go straight to Norfolk. … Left-hander Richard Bleier (shoulder) came through Friday's rehabilitation appearance well, Hyde said, and could be back with the major league team in a couple of weeks. … Right-hander Nate Karns is still not throwing, Hyde said.