BOWIE – The life of a minor-league baseball team is different from those in the major leagues. Rosters change regularly, and teams often look much different at season’s end than when the year began.
Still, the Bowie Baysox will have plenty of talent on their roster when the 2018 season begins tonight with a home game versus Harrisburg at 6:35 p.m. That’s the beginning of a seven-game homestand as Bowie plays 13 of its first 20 games at home this year.
The Baysox are trying to reach the Eastern League playoffs for the third time in four years. They won the championship in 2015 before losing in the first round last season after finishing second in the Western Division.
Gary Kendall returns for his eighth year as Bowie’s manager, and he’s done well when running the ship, and the team hopes that continues in 2018.
“It means something…under (Kendall), it’s really been competitive baseball year after year,” Bowie Baysox General Manager Brian Shallcross said. “I think we’re going to hit the ground running when the season begins.”
The team is going to carry 13 pitchers at the start of the season with right-hander Hunter Harvey being the one many will keep their eyes on moving forward. Harvey has been one of the Orioles’ top prospects since they picked him in the first round of the 2013 draft.
However, he’s been dragged down by many injury issues. Harvey, the son of former major league pitcher Bryan Harvey, has been doing better lately. He threw well in spring training, appeared to feel confident, and the Orioles placed him with Bowie.
Last season, he pitched just 18 1/3 innings but is a power pitcher who the Orioles are hoping to see big things from eventually. If everything works out right, Harvey could anchor the Bowie starting rotation.
The big question is if Harvey shows all of his talents and how long will he stay with the team. Would Baltimore rush him to Triple-A Norfolk and maybe even the majors at some point if he can stay healthy?
No matter what happens, he starts the season with Bowie.
Infielder Ryan Mountcastle (third base) is out with a broken right hand and should be ready to come back later this month. He’s another top prospect, and Bowie is expecting to get him in its lineup.
However, the Baysox also got a mild surprise when the Orioles gave the team outfielder Austin Hays, who spent much of September playing pretty well at the major-league level after Baltimore called him up from Bowie.
It hurt Bowie in the playoffs as Hays – who hit .330 with 16 homers and 54 RBI during 64 games really gave its offense a boost after coming to the team in mid-season, but the Baysox know the deal.
“We understood why,” Bowie Baysox Assistant General Manager Phil Wrye said. “Obviously he was a big part of the lineup for us in the second half.”
Most likely, Hays will spend some time with Bowie before moving up, either to Norfolk or Baltimore, if he still plays well.
Cedric Mullins and Ademar Rifaela also will be in the outfield, which could be the team’s most reliable area at the start. Mullins batted .265 in 76 games with Bowie last year but battled through some injuries.
Rifaela was the Carolina League’s Most Valuable Player last year with Class A Frederick after hitting 24 homers with 78 RBI and finishing with a .284 average.
Here’s the roster the team announced last Friday:
LHP Keegan Akin
RHP Tanner Chleborad
RHP Jay Flaa
LHP Paul Fry
LHP Luis Gonzalez
RHP Matthew Grimes
RHP Hunter Harvey
RHP Jordan Kipper
RHP Lucas Long
LHP Reid Love
LHP John Means
RHP Ryan Meisinger