Orioles' Holliday, hitting .059, optioned to minors

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BALTIMORE — Highly touted prospect Jackson Holliday has been optioned to the minor leagues by the Orioles after starting his big league career with a disappointing thud.

Holliday, 20, was promoted from Triple-A Norfolk on April 10 amid plenty of fanfare, but the second baseman managed only two hits — both singles — and two walks in 36 plate appearances over 10 games. He struck out 18 times and was batting .059 with one RBI and a .111 on-base percentage.

The Orioles tried to rest him periodically, but Holliday, the top pick in the 2022 MLB draft, never busted out of his funk at the plate. Baltimore sent him back to Norfolk on Friday before opening a three-game series at home against the Oakland Athletics.

“We decided to call him up and see how the translation to the major leagues would go on a short-term basis,” general manager Mike Elias said. “What we have seen here led me to the evaluation and opinion that he would benefit from going back and adjusting there rather than doing it here in real time.”

Holliday will seek to regain his form at the plate with Norfolk, where he batted .333 with 5 doubles, 2 homers and 9 RBIs in 10 games this season before being summoned by the Orioles.

Holliday excelled in the minors last season and was dominating Triple-A pitching at Norfolk, but that didn’t translate to success at the major league level during his time with Baltimore this month.

“He got very intense, very specific feedback from major league pitching,” Elias said. “He’s a brilliant talent and a very sharp kid, and I expect he’s going to go implement those adjustments really quickly. But we felt that Triple-A and steady playing time in Triple-A was the place for that, for a number of different reasons.”

Most notable is that the Orioles can’t afford to nurse Holliday along while vying to repeat as division champions.

“We’ve got a team in a tight race in the American League East, and it’s just not an optimal place to be doing player development for a kid like him,” Elias said.

The move should lead to more playing time for veteran infielders Ramon Urias and Jorge Mateo, both key contributors last season.

“We felt like it was important for him to just go play,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s not easy here, and what he’s done up to this point in his short, short career, the start of his career has been unbelievable. It’s not easy, just not easy here. We want to take some weight off his shoulders and just go play.”

The son of former All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday was thought to have a chance to make the big league club out of spring training, but instead started with Norfolk. Now he’s back down again, looking to right himself and get a second chance with Baltimore.

“It’s nothing that Jackson did. We were the ones that have been moving him along this quickly,” Elias said. “It’s a little hiccup. It’s probably the first one that he’s ever had, and he’s ultimately going to be better off for it.”

His demotion could cost the Orioles a prospect promotion draft pick. The stipulation is that players with little or no MLB service time need to break camp with the team or be called up within two weeks of Opening Day. Then they must spend all or most of the year in the big leagues. In addition, they must either win their league’s Rookie of the Year award, or place in the top three for MVP or Cy Young.

As part of the roster shuffle on Friday, the Orioles selected the contract of outfielder Ryan McKenna from Norfolk and designated catcher David Bañuelos for assignment.

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