The Orioles Reinstate James McCann; Option Kyle Stowers
In a somewhat surprising move, the Baltimore Orioles have optioned OF Kyle Stowers to AAA Norfolk. The demotion came as a result of catcher James McCann rejoining the 26-man roster off the IL. The 32-year old was expected to back up Adley Rutschman to begin the year, but an oblique strain held him out for the first week and a half of the season. McCann, a 2022 free agency acquisition, will make his debut against the New York Yankees today. For more about McCann, click this link.
By optioning Stowers, the Orioles now have three catchers on the active roster in Anthony Bemboom, Adley Rutschman, and James McCann. It was presumed before today that Bemboom would be the odd man out once McCann returned, but his presence has persisted. It has been speculated that starting catcher Adley Rutschman may be dealing with a minor injury, thus necessitating an additional catcher to back up McCann.
The news of Stowers’ return to AAA is disappointing for O’s fans to say the least. The 25-year-old posted a slashline of .264/.357/.527 and an OPS of .884 in his 407 plate appearances with Norfolk last year. In addition to his impressive averages, Stowers also led the Orioles farm system in home runs last year with 19. He was called up twice in 2022, and slashed .253/.306/.418 in 98 PAs.
Manager Brandon Hyde’s usage of Stowers at the major league level has been heavily scrutinized in both 2022 and 2023. Hyde would outright refuse to play Stowers against left-handed pitchers, and he ended the year with just four PAs against lefties. However, one of the three home runs he hit in the majors last year came against a lefty; when he walked it off against Liam Hendriks and the White Sox. Further, Stowers has seen very limited playing time in 2023. Despite being eight games into the season, the left-handed Stowers has only had six plate appearances.
Following the move, Brandon Hyde defended the decision, “We want to see Kyle get everyday at-bats, see him get four at-bats a game.” While he’ll certainly get more at-bats in Norfolk, the question must be asked: Has Stowers really not proven enough in the minors?