Orioles recall OF/1B Heston Kjerstad, No. 2 pick of 2020 draft

The Baltimore Orioles recalled top prospect Heston Kjerstad, the No. 2 pick of the 2020 draft, prior to Thursday’s opener of a pivotal four-game series against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays.

Kjerstad is Baltimore’s No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The outfielder/first baseman isn’t in the starting lineup for Thursday’s game.

The former college star at Arkansas said he was hit with a wave of emotions when he got the news.

“You’re experiencing them all,” the 24-year-old Kjerstad said. “Honestly — stoked, excited, relieved. It’s something you’ve worked for paying off and getting to go chase your dream.”

Kjerstad started this season at Double-A Bowie and batted .310 with 11 homers and 23 RBIs in 46 games. He was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk and hit .298 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs in 76 games.

He also opened eyes in spring training when he batted .381 with four homers and nine RBIs in 23 games.

“Heston’s had a really nice year in Triple-A. It’s been fun to watch him from afar,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said Thursday. “What he did in spring training, I was so impressed with how the ball came off his bat and the power that he showed and the ability to hit.”

After being drafted by the Orioles, Kjerstad missed the entire 2021 season due to myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart typically caused by a viral infection.

Baltimore optioned outfielder Ryan McKenna to Norfolk in a corresponding move. McKenna, 26, is batting .254 with two homers and 18 RBIs in 86 games.

The Orioles also recalled right-hander Bryan Baker from Norfolk and sent left-hander Nick Vespi to the same affiliate. Baker, 28, is 4-3 with a 3.64 ERA in 45 appearances for Baltimore this season, while the 27-year-old Vespi is 1-0 with a 4.30 ERA in nine appearances.

Baltimore also placed outfielder/second baseman Terrin Vavra (shoulder) on the 60-day injured list. Vavra, 26, is batting .245 with five RBIs in 27 games for the Orioles.

Entering Thursday, first-place Baltimore holds a two-game lead over the Rays in the American League East.