Orioles' Austin Hays is ready to make up for lost time - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ Austin Hays is ready to make up for lost time

Austin Hays
Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

FREDERICK, Md.—In 2017, Austin Hays breezed through the Carolina League. He hit .330 with 16 home runs and 41 RBIs in 64 games with High-A Frederick before earning a promotion to Double-A Bowie, where he did just as well and spent the final weeks of the season in the majors.

Two years later, Hays is back with the Keys for the week as part of his minor league rehabilitation assignment for a sprained left thumb.

Hays, who hit .351 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in spring training before he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on March 21, hurt his thumb on a headfirst slide into second base in a minor league game a few days later.

“I was stealing second,” Hays said. “It wasn’t a crazy play. It was nothing out of the ordinary, no collision. I just hit the bag funny and messed up my thumb.”

Hays was frightened that 2019 was going to be a repeat of last season, when he lost most of the season to a left ankle injury that required surgery in September. He thought he might have torn a ligament.

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“If it was torn, I would have had to get surgery, and that would have been devastating for me,” Hays said. “Especially just coming back and starting to feel good from ankle surgery, so it was a relief to find out that it was just a sprain and that I could do the rehab without having to go under the knife again.”

Nearly two months after the injury, Hays is feeling better.

“I’m really healthy,” Hays said. “The body’s 100 percent — hand, ankle, thumb — everything’s good. I’m just trying to get the at-bats and get the innings back and get into a flow and rhythm and carry that into wherever I go next.”

On Friday night, Hays was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, a walk and was hit by a pitch. In his first five games, he’s batting .056 and is 1-for-18 in his rehab with Frederick.

“It’s just that part of playing every day and getting your at-bats every day,” Hays said. “Incorporating your routines in a schedule because you come into spring training. You build that routine, you start feeling comfortable, you get that feel for the games, and it starts to show up on the field, so that’s what I’m doing right now.

“I’m trying to build those routines and building that feeling of playing every day. I feel really good at the plate right now. I feel comfortable. I feel like I’m on time, not swinging at a lot of bad pitches. I think it’s only a matter of time before it starts to show up.”

Frederick manager Ryan Minor agrees.

“He’s one of those guys who needs at-bats right now,” Minor said. “Getting under the lights, getting to face some quality arms.

“He needs at-bats to get rolling, get confidence … He’s just a little bit behind as far as action and seeing pitches against quality competition. He’ll get caught up and get to where he needs to be.”

Hays hasn’t spent much time in the minors. He went from Short Season Aberdeen in 2016 to the Keys a year later, skipping Low-A Delmarva. He passed over Norfolk on the way to the Orioles, but won’t this time around.

“I haven’t been there, yet,” Hays said. “That was where I was supposed to go coming out of camp, and that’s where I’d been assigned. I think that’s where I’m working my way back up [to]. I’m just here getting my at-bats, getting my reps in. Wherever they want me to go next, I’ll be ready for it.”

Hays is expected to be assigned to Double-A Bowie, where he played last season. During spring training, he played center field, and it’s where the Orioles envision him as a major leaguer.

“That was a big part of what I worked on coming back from ankle surgery,” Hays said. “Trying to lose a little bit of weight, gain some foot speed, work on my running mechanics. I gained quite a bit of speed from where I was at coming into spring training last year, so I think I’m more suitable for center field than I was in years prior.”

Spring training was different for Hays. There was a new general manager, Mike Elias, a new manager, Brandon Hyde, and a different atmosphere.

“It’s great. I had a lot of fun during spring training,” Hays said. “They had preached, everybody was going to get a chance. I think everybody competed really hard. It was a very hungry and enthusiastic environment. It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to getting back up there and competing with those guys.”

Hays has been frustrated by his injuries, but he wasn’t angry about being sent down after a strong spring training.

“It’s a new environment being built, a lot of new guys trying to build relationships,” Hays said. “They said they needed to see me develop a little more in the minor leagues. They think I need to prove myself a little bit more. I understand where they’re coming from. I’m still only 23 years old. I’ve got to earn my way, just like everybody does.”

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    May 18, 2019 at 7:34 am

    Great attitude, they should have Cobb (not Ty) talk to him….

  2. Orial

    May 18, 2019 at 7:58 am

    The whole OF situation hangs in the balance as we await his return–defensively,offensively,speed wise. As long as he takes his time,gets in right,and stays healthy. Fingers crossed.

  3. cedar

    May 18, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Agree. Hays has the right attitude and we need to take the time needed for this prospect. He looks like he can be one of the crucial pieces to a future contending O’s team.

  4. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    May 18, 2019 at 9:16 am

    The talent is definitely there, he just has to stay healthy. If so he should be the starting centerfielder when the Orioles are competitive again.

  5. willmiranda

    May 18, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    Disappointed with his attitude. Wish he had a chip on his shoulder as big as Gibraltar after they way they treated him, not keeping their word about open competition in the spring. New regime seems to be using arbitrary decisions on and off the field to create uncertainty and make people dependent on them. I think of first-year teachers who are trying to establish their personal authority. Hopefully, they’ll outgrow this.

    • Camden Brooks

      May 18, 2019 at 11:02 pm

      Since I don’t know what Austin is thinking, I will refrain from criticizing his attitude. Saying the decisions of the O’s management are arbitrary is simply ridiculous.

      • VICTORTEE

        May 19, 2019 at 10:33 am

        The decisions might not be arbitrary but there is no real reason to say they are correct either. Elias was NOT the decisionmaker in Houston. He was an assistant. So he might or might not know how to make decisions on his own.

    • VICTORTEE

      May 19, 2019 at 10:34 am

      I agree. He and Sisco EARNED jobs and got screwed.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 19, 2019 at 11:02 am

      Victor, Chance Sisco has thrown out three of 23 runners attempting to steal at Norfolk. That’s not helping him earn a major league job.

    • Bhoffman1

      May 19, 2019 at 8:10 pm

      Rich you say Sisco defense which everyone says is better has not earned him a major league job. Yet we have a SS who can’t hit. Rickard who can’t hit or field. Nunez who can’t field and now can’t hit and Hanser who is a joke at second base. Wynns doesn’t hit for much and his fielding has been mediocre. I say it’s time for Sisco, DJ, and Mountcastle. Elias doesn’t realize I feel that the fans won’t pay to see this team. No need to wait anymore to bring up these players and soon I hope Hays once he gets going. The SS we have at Norfolk and Bowie have to be a improvement over Martin.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 20, 2019 at 9:08 am

      Bruce, I don’t know where to start.

    • Bhoffman1

      May 20, 2019 at 10:37 am

      Please read Tyler Young column on Camden Chat. He agrees with just about everything I wrote you.

    • ClayDal

      May 20, 2019 at 12:06 pm

      Rich doesn’t know where to start. I do. Richie Martin is a Rule 5 pick. Must be on the 25 man roster all year. Otherwise, he would have to be offered back to Oakland who would be able to send him back to the minors. Yes his offense is limited ( actually awful), but his defense is MLB caliber , and frankly there isn’t a Cal Ripken Jr or a J J Hardy ( or even a Kiko García) knocking on the door. This year isn’t going anywhere so let him take his lumps and next year option him to Norfolk. He could turn out to be special. As for Núñez, Rickard, Wynns, Alberto, even Ruiz, Wilkerson and Dwight Smith Jr these are not part of the “ elite talent pipeline” that Mike Elias spoke about when he took the job. Any contributions from them is gravy. As for Hays, Sisco, Diaz, Stewart, Mountcastle et al , it is best to let them develop in the minors so when they do come up to Baltimore they have better odds to stay here. It stinks now but it improves the chances the team will be better down the road

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 20, 2019 at 12:47 pm

      Thank you, Clay. I have explained Sisco to our friend Bruce many times, but he chooses to ignore his defensive liabilities and focus on his offense, which is streaky.

      I have explained the Martin situation as well, but he insists there are better infielders at Norfolk and Bowie, which there are not.

      Martin hit .300 at Double-A last year.

      Thank you for your most thoughtful comment.

  6. CalsPals

    May 19, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    What I saw last night from our catcher didn’t seem MLB worthy either, I don’t think the pitchers have much confidence when he is behind the plate, Wynns called a much better game the night before…

  7. Bhoffman1

    May 20, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    In all due respect to Claypals and you Rich many writers and critics do not agree with you. Like I have said before you are a great guy and I admire how you stay positive but you are a company man. DJ has nothing more to prove in the minors and he is a upgrade to Rickard. Mountcastle is a big upgrade to Nunez, who like Tyler Young wrote on Camden Chat should be DFA. Sisco might be streaky but Wynns has no streaks and his defense has been mediocre. Just because Martin in rule 5 does that mean that you have to keep him. His hitting in every category has been the worse in all baseball. Probably Oakland will not take him back and he will wind up in Norfolk like Aruajo back with us. I suggested Villar at SS by the way and Wilkerson at second once we gave someone who can play center.

    • ClayDal

      May 20, 2019 at 3:48 pm

      In reference to Richie Martin the A’s would take him back in a minute. In the case of Oakland not only would they not have to put him on the 25 man roster but they can take him off the 40. As bad as Núñez has looked recently he is on pace for 25 hrs and 68 RBI’s Mountcastle will be up soon enough. No need to rush him. This isn’t like bringing up 20 yr old Manny Machado in 2012. For one thing Manny is a generational player. Secondly the Orioles were trying to make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years in 2012. No such goal exist this year. Catching the Blue Jays for fourth is not the goal of the front office. Mountcastle will probably be called up in August. He is not currently on the 40 man roster. If called up now and fails you would have to use an option on him. If brought up in August and overmatched keep him on bench in September and save the 3 options. He is only 22. If he is as good as advertised couple months of seasoning won’t hurt

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 21, 2019 at 12:02 am

      Bruce, I am not trying to stay positive. I am trying to be even-handed. I have to deal with the players each day, and I’m not going to blatantly criticize them as fans do. I’ve written all along how challenging this year and next are likely to be. I, too am looking forward to seeing what Ryan Mountcastle and DJ Stewart can do. I don’t believe Chance Sisco has proven himself at Triple-A.

  8. Bhoffman1

    May 20, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Have

  9. Mikepete73

    May 20, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    if everybody really got a chance hays and sisco would never of been sent down and mountcastle and dj Stewart would be up now. if Orioles are gonna lose 100 games again let’s do it with the young kids not all these waiver wire pickups

    • Bhoffman1

      May 20, 2019 at 4:11 pm

      100 per cent right Mikepete. These wire pickups couldn’t make it with other clubs. The only good move was Smith Jr

    • ClayDal

      May 20, 2019 at 4:39 pm

      I don’t think the front office is under any illusion about all the waiver wire pick ups. As Mike Elias has said the goal is that when the Hays, Mountcastle, Stewart’s etc are ready the Orioles can keep them on the roster without shuttling them back and forth to Norfolk. And while they won’t admit it service time considerations do play a role. If Hays, Mountcastle, Diaz, Stewart, Sisco had all been on the opening day roster and stayed there they would all be eligible for free agency in 2024. Since most people don’t think the Orioles are going to be competitive until 2021 you would have been looking at a very short window before you would have to make some costly decisions ( see KC Royals 2017). All teams manipulate the roster to maximize the players service time ( see Toronto Vlad Guerrero Jr ) The Orioles are focused more on player development than winning this year. Much of the core of the next great O’s team is in Delmarva, college, high school, and the Dominican Republic. Patience

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