January 29, 2023

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'SportsCenter' and a callup: Big days for O's prospect Bannon

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ST. LOUIS — Rylan Bannon was sitting on his couch just after midnight ET Wednesday, watching Netflix with his wife Madison when his phone lit up. It was a call from Triple-A Norfolk manager Buck Britton, letting him know to get on the next flight to St. Louis — whatever route was required. He was needed on the big league taxi squad.

Bannon’s phone was a popular destination later that morning. It was where he found out that a stellar juggling catch he made in the Tides’ win the night before made “SportsCenter’s” Top 10 Plays, coming in at No. 7. He only realized it by scrolling Instagram, then his phone got flooded.

“Yeah,” Bannon said on Wednesday, “kind of crazy.”

Bannon was speaking with glee from Busch Stadium before the Orioles’ 10-1 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday, inhabiting a locker in a big league visitors’ clubhouse for the first time. He was a late addition to the taxi squad along with fellow utility infielder Richie Martin, a rather rare move to make already in the midst of a road swing but one necessary as a precaution, with the O’s battling day-to-day injuries to Ryan Mountcastle (left wrist) and Ramón Urías (abdominal discomfort).

But it was a necessary move: Bannon, 26, was promoted to the big league club ahead of Thursday’s 3-2 series finale win in St. Louis to make his debut at third base, and was notified just an hour before first pitch. His first defensive chance? Merely robbing Nolan Arenado — one of the best at the hot corner in MLB — of a hit. The first pitch of Bannon’s Major League career? A single up the left side, just past the reach of Arenado.

“That play right there in the first inning definitely made things a little easier from there on out,” Bannon said on Thursday. “But still, my feet didn’t really get under me until the fifth or so inning, and after getting a couple of at-bats, that’s when it kind of really sunk in where I was.”

Bannon’s appearance ties a bow on what’s been a long tenure in this organization despite it being his second. One of the two players to be acquired in the Manny Machado blockbuster with the Dodgers in 2018 who was yet to debut, Bannon has played 281 games in an Orioles-affiliated uniform, part of 410 Minor League games overall.

The other — Yusniel Diaz — continues to hit the cover off the ball at Triple-A. A callup for him could come soon, though the Orioles have wanted to see him fully healthy from a hamstring strain and fully riding a wave of more success. He owns a .333 batting average with a .968 OPS through 12 games this season.

They might one day flank Adley Rutschman, the O’s top prospect and hoped-for franchise cornerstone, on the big league roster. Rutschman is raring for his much-anticipated debut, possibly as soon as the next homestand.

And that’s just the start.

Top pitching prospects Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall are expected to be in the Majors before year’s end. Around five of the O’s Top 10 prospects should do the same before year’s end, the club has hinted.

One already has. Kyle Bradish was dominant for his first Major League win in the series opener Tuesday, with 11 strikeouts against zero walks. He’s simply the table-settler for this next wave of highly touted O’s prospects soon to hit the bigs.

Bannon was once among that group. After he landed in Baltimore from Los Angeles at the July 2018 Trade Deadline, he was ranked the O’s No. 23 prospect in ’19. Times have been hard since then, with just a .648 OPS across 90 games in ’21, missing over a month of the season due to a left oblique strain.

But this past spring, Bannon appeared near the precipice, with a .385/.529/.692 slash line (1.222 OPS) in nine Grapefruit League games, ultimately serving as one of the final cuts to Orioles camp. With Norfolk this year, those numbers sit at .235/.361/.382 (.743 OPS) through 29 games — buildable, and with space to improve upon.

That had been the story of his career to date, long hoping — like many on the O’s farm — that this year results in a callup to Baltimore. He’s now accomplished that goal.

“Yeah, it’s definitely [had] some highs and lows, just kind of taking everything in stride,” Bannon said. “Last year was a tough year for me, but I took a lot away from last year. I think that’s showing this year. I learned a lot about myself and I came out this year pretty strong.”

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