BRADENTON, Fla. — Connor Norby tried to tell them he was fine. The Orioles infield prospect mentioned left side soreness to trainers near the beginning of spring training games, and he feels some regret in doing so.

Of course, Norby understands his club was looking out for his best interests. But Norby was eager for game action, and when it came in the latter half of Baltimore’s 5-2 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, he didn’t wait to come through at the plate.

He lashed a double down the left field line.

Norby is a hitter. He’s proven as much throughout his minor league career, even when he felt himself grappling with suggestions from hitting coaches that left him uncertain at the plate during their early implementation. He’s still searching for the most comfortable position, but the double was a welcome early development in his otherwise slow spring.

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“I’ve been watching everybody else rake, and I’ve been wanting to get in on the party,” Norby joked. “Nah, I’ve been itching probably since day one. They’ve been taking it really slow with me and I get it, but it’s been frustrating, ’cause I want to get back out there and show what I can do.”

What Norby can do is special at the plate. On a team full of prospects, he’s another highly coveted infielder who could have a large future ahead of him. At Triple-A Norfolk last year, Norby hit .290 with an .842 on-base-plus-slugging percentage — and he’ll readily admit that wasn’t him at his best, even.

Norby — Baseball America’s No. 6-ranked Orioles prospect — felt unstoppable in late 2022 during his time at Double-A Bowie and nine-game stint with the Tides. He hit .298 for the Baysox and .359 in Norfolk. But for much of last season, Norby said, he was searching for the right feel at the plate.

The positive results, then, were a boon.

“It was really crucial for my confidence, because I tell people all the time, I never felt great last year,” Norby said. “I felt like I was just grinding all year, trying new stuff. I felt like every other day I was trying something new. But I put up some really solid numbers, so I can’t complain with that, and I was happy with just how I handled it, the adversity.

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“It’s not always going to be like the light switch turns on and you’re seeing everything great and you’re hitting everything,” Norby continued. “There’s a lot of nights you’re going to have to grind out ABs, and that’s what I felt like last year. But it’s a new year, working on new things, still trying to get better.”

Norby has spent much of spring altering his swing once more at the suggestions of Baltimore’s hitting coaches. He has a swing path that starts high and drops through the zone rapidly, with his hands then evening out so the bat is level upon contact before finishing a parabolic motion.

Connor Norby (94) gets ready to swing for a pitch in the sixth inning of a game against the Tigers on 3/2/23. The Baltimore Orioles lost to the Detroit Tigers, 10-3, in the Florida Grapefruit League matchup.
Connor Norby takes a swing during a spring training game Saturday. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Rather than starting with his hands behind his head and raising them higher in his load, Norby is cutting out the first part. With his hands higher and away from his body, he’s embracing his vertical swing path. And he’s watched ample film of Texas Rangers infielder Josh Jung and Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez, two players who have similar swing paths, for inspiration.

In cutting out a step during his load, Norby could have more time to see and react to a pitch.

“You don’t really get to know until you get out and test it, and continue to test it, and get comfortable with it,” Norby said. “But you can’t argue with the results today.”

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Notes

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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