Jackson Holliday’s first stint in the majors was short-lived.

The No. 1 prospect in baseball was optioned Friday after going 2-for-34 with 18 strikeouts in 10 games.

Holliday, just 20 years old, was drafted first overall in 2022. He rose quickly through the minors and ended last season in Triple-A, entering spring training with a chance to make the team. He was sent down to the minors to begin the season, with general manager Mike Elias saying he wanted Holliday to get more time at second base, a new position for him, and experience against left-handed pitching.

But the Orioles, who began the season against a heavy slate of left-handed starters, brought him up after just 10 minor league games. Now, with more southpaws on the way, Elias decided to send him back to Norfolk to get everyday playing time, because he would have sat out most of those games.

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“He needs repetitions,” Elias said. “I think the bright side is he got very intense, very specific feedback from major league pitching. He’s a brilliant talent, very sharp kid. I expect he’s going to go implement those adjustments very quickly. We felt Triple-A and steady playing time in Triple-A was the place for that.”

They moved Holliday up quickly, bringing him to the majors at 20 years old because, Elias said, they felt he was ready. But, with the jump from Triple-A to the big leagues being so big, it’s possible Holliday wasn’t fully ready for the next step. In the minors, one of his best traits was his ability to draw walks as often as he struck out. In the majors, he walked just twice.

“It was hard for me to know exactly where he was based on the evidence that I was working with,” Elias said. “Ultimately, do I like the way that this has gone in April? No. And I feel responsible for that.”

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In a corresponding move, the Orioles purchased the contract of outfielder Ryan McKenna, who has played 282 games in the majors since 2021. To clear room for McKenna on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated catcher David Bañuelos for assignment.

McKenna, a career .221 hitter, was selected over a trio of prospects who have been biding their time in Norfolk waiting for a call-up. Connor Norby, a second baseman; Coby Mayo, a first and third baseman; and Kyle Stowers, an outfielder, all performed highly in spring training and have continued that trend in Triple-A.

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All three are in the conversation, Elias said, but this was not the right time. McKenna brings major league experience and can play all three outfield positions — which will come in handy with Austin Hays on the injured list. He has also spent time in Norfolk learning second base, although he has yet to play a game there.

“For this upcoming stretch of play, we thought it was good to have the defensive profile, the speed that Ryan brings on the bench and an extra right-handed hitter too,” Elias said.

Holliday was showing subtle signs of improvement, getting his second hit Wednesday and drawing a walk the day prior. Although he did not perform well in the majors, it did not impact the performance of the team. The Orioles went 7-3 in games he played, and manager Brandon Hyde said multiple times that the team was confident Holliday would figure it out. It still is.

“What he’s done up until this point in his short, short start of his career has been unbelievable,” Hyde said. “It’s not easy here. We want to take some weight off his shoulders a little bit and just go play. Keep doing what he’s been doing.”

The Orioles have seen starting pitcher Grayson Rodriguez and outfielder Colton Cowser bounce back from demotions.

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Both were optioned after short stints — 10 starts for Rodriguez and 26 games for Cowser — but they performed immediately upon their recalls. Rodriguez had a 2.58 ERA in 13 starts after coming back to the majors last year, while Cowser is currently hitting .333 with six home runs.

They are hopeful the same will happen when Holliday returns.

“It’s hard because it’s a short-term setback for them; it’s not a good feeling,” Elias said. “Ultimately it’s not the end of the world; it’s temporary. Who knows if this was a necessary step or not in his development? I don’t really know. Ideally, they come up and stay, but this happens more often than not — really good players, Hall of Fame-caliber players, in the last 25 years have had the same thing happen.”

The Orioles like how far Holliday has come at second base, where he had played only 25 times prior to this season. He will spend most of his time in Norfolk there, with an occasional start at shortstop. They plan to keep him in Triple-A until he has made enough progress at the plate; they do not intend to bring him up as a short-term injury replacement.

And while Holliday’s first taste in Baltimore didn’t go as well as it hoped, the team is confident he will be a big part of the future.

“And perhaps more so just because of how he handled himself through this,” Elias said. “I couldn’t be more excited about him as an Oriole and also as a talent that anybody who is a fan of the sport is going to be able to watch. He’s got an extremely bright future; we just need to polish up some things.”

Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College.

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