If you don’t like the direction the Baltimore Orioles are taking, wait two weeks.

That seems to be the prescribed time the team needs to backtrack on consequential roster decisions — or maybe that timeframe applies only to Jackson Holliday.

It was roughly two weeks after leaving Holliday off the opening day roster that Baltimore called up the top prospect in the organization for a heralded major league debut. The only problem was he was unable to consecrate the occasion with a hit.

It took him 14 at-bats to knock a single to right field, and the rest after that seemed just as much of a struggle. Now, just two weeks after his splashy entrance, he’s going back to the minor leagues.

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A 2-for-34 line is not a pretty picture for the 20-year-old, and it was hard to watch Holliday at the plate for much of that 10-game stretch. But sending down Holliday so soon, not even with half a month of games, feels like an overprotective reaction, an organization struggling to reckon with exactly how to grow a star in the making into an actual star.

There is, at least, some consistency. One huge reason that the Orioles held off calling up Holliday is a reason they’re sending him down now: a slate of lefty pitchers. After Friday’s series opener against Oakland, five of the next nine starters against them are scheduled to be left-handed hurlers. The way manager Brandon Hyde plays matchups means Holliday would not start on those days.

Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jackson Holliday (7) throws to a teammate between Milwaukee Brewers at-bats during game three of a series at Camden Yards on April 14, 2024. The Orioles beat the Brewers, 6-4, to avoid getting swept in the series.
Holliday did not get as much time in the major leagues as other Orioles prospects who were sent down for a reset in Norfolk. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

It’s easy to accept that Holliday needs to play more than four of the next nine games to iron out his struggles. It’s not so easy to believe that moving Holliday to Norfolk, where he’s been dominant, is the best way to make him better.

In a clubhouse session with reporters Friday, general manager Mike Elias emphasized two points: that Holliday is far ahead of his 20-year-old peers and that sending a rookie back down to the farm is a somewhat normal part of the process.

“This is me, without a crystal ball, trying to make the right decision for a precocious talent,” Elias said. “There’s not a lot of playbook for how to handle somebody who was moving along as quickly and as well as he was.”

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You can’t doubt the sincerity of Elias’ wish to protect Holliday, his latest prized prospect. But the strategy still feels like a head-scratcher.

Start with where, specifically, Holliday is struggling. Elias declined to reveal specific feedback he’s been given about his plate approach, but The Banner’s Jon Meoli lays it out well enough. Major league pitchers simply throw faster and more accurately than Holliday has seen in Triple-A.

He must learn to align his plate discipline and his timing with the razor-thin margins of baseball’s best arms. It’s hard to imagine how more Triple-A time accomplishes that goal.

We also aren’t talking about a player who was not ready for the majors — even Elias and Hyde begged to differ. In a slump that would make hardened vets feel down, Holliday handled it well, both said.

“I admired it, honestly,” Hyde said. “I admired the maturity, how he handled tough at-bats, how he stayed engaged defensively. You couldn’t tell that he was down in any way.”

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That doesn’t sound like a prospect who needs a mental reset, who needs the weight off his shoulders. Given that Holliday was performing his defensive duties well, couldn’t he have continued to play as long as the Orioles, who were 7-3 during his stint, were winning?

Holliday was 2-for-34, but before he got called up Ramón Urías and Tony Kemp — the players he could have picked off for an opening day roster spot, were just 2-for-31. As poorly as Holliday began his career, the club is accustomed to slumps from Urías and Jorge Mateo, the players who figure to fill in the infield gaps. Mateo, in particular, had just 21 hits and six walks in the second half of last season (40 games). Somehow, he’s still clutching a roster spot.

If the Orioles are confident in Holliday’s future, they probably should have just let him work through these bumps, as Gunnar Henderson did last season in a forgettable April.

Ten games and 36 plate appearances are just not much to go on. Colton Cowser had a brief stint last season that feels like a reference point, but even that was 77 plate appearances, enough to feel that maybe a reset was the right thing to do. Grayson Rodriguez got 10 starts on the mound before getting sent down, playing a more consequential position directly tied to wins and losses.

Baltimore is still one of the best teams in the league, not usually hurting for hitting on most nights. While remaining competitive is undoubtedly one of the reasons the O’s sent Holliday down, it’s not as if the team will be facing less pressure to win whenever he resurfaces. The Orioles themselves are bowing to pressure here.

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No one in the organization, or those who have been following closely, believe the hard times will last forever. Elias said he was more confident in Holliday’s potential following his first two weeks in the majors, not less.

“He’s got an extremely bright future,” he said. “We just need to polish up some things.”

If growing pains are a part of the process, go through the process. Let it hurt. Let Holliday struggle. He’ll get through it. That’s why he’s come this far so quickly.

Instead, Holliday will take a step back to Norfolk — not because he couldn’t handle the pressure but because the Orioles couldn’t.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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