Outfielder Heston Kjerstad, the second overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Arkansas, is recovering from an episode of myocarditis and will be brought along slowly in spring training.
The Orioles placed Kjerstad on their camp reserve list and offered an explanation in February for his absence last summer from the alternate training site and then instructional league in the fall.
The only stated reason had been a non-sports medical issue, which led to suspicions that he tested positive for Covid-19. The Orioles keep these medical matters private until the player consents to speak about them.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle that can cause an abnormal rhythm and be a side effect of Covid-19. However, the Orioles did not indicate that Kjerstad had tested positive for the virus.
He was recovering and eager to start his professional career.
“He’s doing really well,” Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said. “We’re going to have him at the camp, but . . . it’s a bit of a lengthy recovery timeline.
“There are also risk factors associated with the ongoing pandemic that we’ve had to be very mindful and very careful about. So he won’t be there immediately . . .
“I know he’s looking forward to being there . . . I’ll let him talk about that on his own. But everything is going well, but that is still something that’s developing in terms of the timeline of his reporting because of that.”
The Orioles signed Kjerstad for $5.2 million, well below the slot value of the No. 2 pick, which was $7,789,900. They used the savings to go over slot to sign other picks.
Kjerstad is viewed as the eventual right fielder at Camden Yards. Elias called him the “best lefthanded hitter in the country” after his selection was announced.
Kjerstad certainly had one of the strongest track records. He starred for three years in the Southeastern Conference, batting .343/.421/.590 with 37 home runs in 150 games, and also for USA Baseball’s National Collegiate Team.
— The Orioles intend to use Jahmai Jones primarily at second base in camp, but also will give him reps in the outfield. Jones, acquired from the Angels in the Alex Cobb trade, has extensive experience at both positions but is viewed mostly as an infielder with the Orioles.
— Top pitching prospects and first-round picks Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall weren’t included in the list of spring training invites and camp reserves. The Orioles are slow-playing pitchers who will be assigned below the Triple-A level and have later starts to their seasons to prevent them from ramping up too early.