Orioles’ Heston Kjerstad ‘stoked, excited, relieved’ to be called up; Ryan Mountcastle ‘feels a lot better,’ won’t go on IL

It took Heston Kjerstad exactly two years to make his professional debut after the Orioles drafted him in 2020. He needed less than that to climb all the way up.

The Orioles called up Kjerstad, ranked by Baseball America as the organization’s fifth-best prospect, to the major leagues Thursday, the team announced. He made his way to Baltimore when first baseman Ryan Mountcastle exited with left shoulder discomfort he suffered on a swing in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kjerstad was pulled in the fifth inning of Triple-A Norfolk’s game Wednesday evening and was told after by Tides manager Buck Britton of his promotion.

“This is something I’ve worked for my whole life,” Kjerstad said. “To finally be here and be in the moment, it’s been awesome so far.”

Kjerstad’s promotion came amid a flurry of other roster moves Thursday, one of which wasn’t placing Mountcastle on the injured list. Manager Brandon Hyde said before the first game of Baltimore’s pivotal four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays that the club received “great news” from the imaging on Mountcastle’s shoulder and that he is only dealing with soreness.

“He’s not an IL candidate,” Hyde said. “He might be available tonight. He’s going to actually test some things out. He feels a lot better.”

The No. 2 overall draft pick in 2020, Kjerstad almost had his career derailed before it could even get underway because of the heart condition myocarditis, which caused him to miss the entire 2021 season. His return in 2022 was then delayed because of a severe hamstring strain.

“Had my myocarditis and my hamstring in the past I had to persevere through, but that’s part of being an athlete and just part of life,” Kjerstad said. “You’ve just got to keep going. … Just stay focused on the main goal. Minor setback, major comeback.”

But Kjerstad finally made his professional debut June 10, 2022 — two years to the date of being drafted — with Low-A Delmarva, later reaching High-A but struggling with Aberdeen to end the 2022 campaign. But he won the Arizona Fall League Most Valuable Player Award and entered spring training in 2023 with the belief he could reach the major leagues this season.

The 24-year-old was one of Baltimore’s best statistical hitters in spring training and began his season in Double-A. He hit .310 with a .960 OPS with Bowie to earn his promotion in June to Norfolk, where he’s kept up his success at the plate with a .298 average and .869 OPS in 76 games. In July, he played alongside No. 1 prospect Jackson Holliday in the MLB All-Star Futures Game, an exhibition contest that showcases the sport’s top minor league talent.

“It’s been a journey, but it’s been fun,” Kjerstad said.

Pitching prospect DL Hall, a teammate of Kjerstad’s in Triple-A before the left-hander’s own call-up, also had a winding path to the majors, albeit not as perilous as the slugger’s.

“It’s obviously challenging, …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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