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Orioles outfielder Austin Hays played 145 games last season, the most he has played in five major league seasons. That was a positive for Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, but there was a negative, too.
After hitting .270 in the first half with a .779 OPS, 12 home runs and 46 RBIs, Hays hit only .220 after the All-Star break with a .626 OPS, four homers and 14 RBIs.
“To see Austin get through a full major league season like that and have a solid season, I think the next step for him is having a solid second half. I don’t see any reason why he won’t do that,” Elias said.
“I think the biggest difference between the first half and the second half last year was some mechanical issues,” Hays said last weekend at the Birdland Caravan stop at the Crooked Crab Brewing Company in Odenton. “Just being able to identify what those issues were and why I was missing as many pitches as I was in the second half, and then just pressing when I started missing my pitches to hit.
“I started to expand the zone more. Just continuing to swing at strikes and having good clean mechanics should lead the good first half that I had throughout the course of the season. Biggest goal that I have this season is to be healthy and be on the field every single day and then I’ll work as hard as I can in the cage to make sure I have that continue all throughout the season.”
Hays could be challenged for playing time by a couple of younger, homegrown outfielders — Kyle Stowers, who played last season, and Colton Cowser, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2021.
“I think it’s great. It just shows all the work that the organization has put in to have a solid minor league system behind the big leagues and have depth,” Hays said. “That’s all you can ask for out of an organization.
“I’ve been with this organization a long time now, my entire career. That makes me happy that we’re at a point now where this team is going to be good for a long time because we have depth. I’m very happy where the organization is now. It’s awesome.”
Stowers thinks experience helps: Outfielder Kyle Stowers was on the Orioles’ roster long enough so that he’s no longer a rookie. Stowers played 34 games and hit .253 with three home runs and 11 RBIs, and while he’s likely to have a spot on the 26-man roster at the end of spring training, it’s not a guarantee.
“I was in a new role,” he said about last season. “I didn’t start all the games I played in, which was different than coming up in the minor leagues. I learned how to be ready for whatever was called for me to do.”
Stowers, who appeared at the Caravan’s stop in Salisbury last weekend, hit his first major league home run on August 25th with an 0-2 count against Chicago’s All-Star reliever Liam Hendriks. His homer tied the game, and the Orioles won it in the bottom of the 11th.
“There’s value in being someone that can be a sparkplug in a pinch-hit at-bat or be ready when your name is called,” Stowers said. “That was something that was new for me. Obviously, I want to be in there as much as I can and help the team as much as I can.”
Urias may move around: Ramón Urías won the Gold Glove at third base despite starting just 84 games there. Urías also started 19 at second base and four at shortstop. With Gunnar Henderson at third, Jorge Mateo at short, and the newly signed Adam Frazier at second, it appears as if Urías will be in a utility role in 2023.
“I think we’ll figure it out in spring training,” Urías said last weekend in Baltimore. “We’ll talk about it. Of course, I’m excited for this spring training … I’ll be ready to compete for my spot.
“I’ve always have been feeling confident and comfortable playing these positions. It’s not something I’ve done just last year. I’ve done it for three, four years now. Thanks [to] that, I feel like I’m in a good position to feel comfortable at every position in the infield.”
Means likes the Chiefs: While he’s been recovering from last April’s Tommy John surgery, John Means has been watching his favorite NFL team, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Means, a native of Olathe, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb, is eagerly awaiting Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I’m feeling great about it,” Means said. “We’ve got a couple of weeks for [Patrick] Mahomes to rest up that ankle of his. Calling a 10-point victory. That’s my call.”
Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions on Monday. Please email yours to: [email protected].
RAVENS LINKS FROM BALTIMORESPORTS.COM