BALTIMORE–Austin Hays was back in center field for the Orioles in Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s a position where Hays looks at home on a team that is searching for a centerfielder.
Hays is the eighth Orioles to start a game in center.
Stevie Wilkerson, who never played center before this season, has 56 starts, more than anyone else. Cedric Mullins started the season there and was impressive on defense, but he was overmatched at the plate and sent to Triple-A Norfolk and then to Double-A Bowie.
Hays played center in spring training.
“I wouldn’t say it’s anything too crazy or too different,” Hays said. “I think that third deck does play a little bit of a factor with those line drives that don’t start in the third deck, but once they start to rise, they get to the third deck. It’s just about angles and making sure you take deep routes.
“It’s something that we’ve worked on since spring training. [Norfolk outfield coach] Butch Davis was working with us down there on defense in Triple-A, so as long as I can keep grinding at that every day, it should be OK.”
Oriole manager Brandon Hyde likes what he’s seen.
“He’s done a nice job,” Hyde said. “He’s athletic. He can run, saw it in spring training, gap-to-gap. Love the way he throws. He’s got a plus-arm. He plays with a no-fear attitude, which I like out there.
“I think he’s going to improve as he gets major league innings. It’s such a small sample. I haven’t seen enough. I’ve just seen him the last few games make some nice plays, go get the ball in front of him a couple of times in the gaps and the ball over his head one time. I think he’s played well.”
Orioles play football: After Thursday night’s game, the Orioles board a plane headed to Detroit, and the dress code is unusual. Copying Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, Hyde has encouraged his players to wear football jerseys for the flight.
Hyde will wear a Ray Lewis jersey for Baltimore, as will pitcher Branden Kline, a Frederick native.
“I thought it would be appropriate to represent the Ravens,” Hyde said. “It’s something fun to do. I think guys get into it, what jersey they got. It’s interesting to see who they pick. I just want to keep things … loose in this six-month season.”
Mark Trumbo has a Chicago Bears jersey. Richard Bleier has a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey worn by running back Rocky Bleier. Rio Ruiz wears an Oakland Raiders Charles Woodson jersey.
Wilkerson went to Clemson, and he has a jersey from there. Richie Martin, who was born in Detroit, went with Barry Sanders’ Lions jersey, and Dwight Smith Jr. wore a red Atlanta Falcons Julio Jones number.
In the past, Hyde, who’s from Northern California, wore a Joe Montana or Jerry Rice San Francisco 49ers jersey. He’d occasionally mix in a John Elway from Stanford.
Hyde’s favorite dress-up with the Cubs came after Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium on August 30, 2015. The Cubs were flying back to Chicago after the Sunday night game, and wore onesies.
“Next year, we’ll have more trips,” Hyde said. “A lot more fun stuff.”