Austin Hays on Orioles' expectations: 'Guys are hungry to go farther this year'; Burnes will start spring opener -
Spring Training

Austin Hays on Orioles’ expectations: ‘Guys are hungry to go farther this year’; Burnes will start spring opener

Photo Credit: Brent Skeen-USA TODAY Sports

SARASOTA, Florida—Outfielder Austin Hays has been in the Orioles’ organization since 2016 and made his major league debut in 2017. Last season, Hays made the All-Star team for the first time. This year, he won an arbitration hearing over the Orioles, and he’ll be paid $6.4 million.

This interview has been edited for brevity.

Question: How is spring training going for you so far?

Hays: “It’s going good. I’ve been able to get quite a few at-bats in. We’ve done three or four [live batting practices]. I was here five or six days before the first day. I feel like I got a little bit of a head start. The body feels good, healthy, got nothing going on. Try to stay that way this year.”

Q: Do you feel a different vibe in the clubhouse this year as opposed to last year?

Hays: “I think everybody has shown up with a bit more confidence knowing you’re not really hoping you can win in the big leagues or hoping you can repeat what you did last year. You’re expecting that of yourself. I think there’s confidence that comes with that. We’ve proven it to ourselves that we can win a division, and we can go to the playoffs, so I think you can just feel that in the atmosphere, how excited everyone is. Nobody’s scared. Nobody’s nervous. Guys are hungry to go farther this year.”

Q: When you look at last year, is it a happy memory or is it a painful memory? (The Orioles won 101 games and the American League East but were swept out of the playoffs by the Texas Rangers.)

Hays: “I think it’s a happy memory, to be able to win a division that we’d been at the bottom of for a long time. Seeing that turnaround and change and seeing the city turn around, seeing how packed the stadium was again, how excited the community is, with where the city of Baltimore is, and the Orioles, how they’re playing again, is a very happy memory.

“Obviously, we didn’t win the last game of the season, so that’s a little pain and brings some motivation for this season, not to feel that again.”

Q: In 2022, there were no expectations for the team, and you won 83 games. Last year, there were some expectations, and you won 101 games. This year, there are expectations. How does that feel?

A: “It feels good. It feels great to know that we’ve worked hard to get to this point, to turn things around, and I don’t think in anybody’s mind are we complacent or feel comfortable with where we are. We know how quickly things can turn around, and we don’t want to go back to where we were, so it’s a really good feeling. It also gives you even more motivation. I know where things can be in an organization and in a locker room. We’re not going to let that happen again and go back to those days. We’re going to stay where we are.”

Q: You won an arbitration hearing just before spring training. What was that experience like?

A: “I had heard some nightmare stories, but honestly, I felt like it was very professional from the Orioles’ side of thing and how it was handled. I know those can be very tough times to sit through, but I didn’t feel like there was anything personal. A lot of things that I had heard from people who had gone through it before. I didn’t feel that in my experience at all. I just felt like it was a very professional experience, through and through.”

Note: Former Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes, who was obtained by the Orioles in a trade with Milwaukee, will start Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Boston Red Sox in Sarasota.

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