Orioles make outfield changes: Hays activated, Stowers recalled, Kjerstad optioned, McKenna designated for assignment - BaltimoreBaseball.com
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Orioles make outfield changes: Hays activated, Stowers recalled, Kjerstad optioned, McKenna designated for assignment

Photo Credit; Tommy Gilligan USA TODAY Sports

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BALTIMORE —For Monday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles have added outfielders Kyle Stowers, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, and Austin Hays, who was activated from the injured list because of a left calf muscle strain. They replace outfielders Heston Kjerstad, who was optioned to Norfolk, and Ryan McKenna, who was designated for assignment.

Neither Hays nor Stowers is in Monday’s lineup.

Manager Brandon Hyde said Kjerstad was sent to the Tides to allow him to play consistently.

“Just the way our outfield configuration is right now, we feel like it was important for him to play every day,” Hyde said. “This was a good experience for him to get up here for a couple of weeks, get a couple of starts, get some pinch-hit opportunities, but where we are in the outfield, which is pretty strong, we feel like we want him to play every day.”

Kjerstad was 2-for-14 (.143) in seven games with the Orioles.

“He’s a big part of our future going forward,” Hyde said. “He’s somebody we really believe in. I’m sure he’ll be up here soon.”

Kjerstad and Stowers are left-handed hitters, and Stowers is hoping for a better outcome in 2024 than he had last year when he was just 2-for-30 (.067). In 2022, Stowers hit .253 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 34 games.

“I was optioned on Mother’s Day last year,” Stowers said. “To be called up on Mother’s Day was a cool full-circle moment. There’s a lot of work to be done, still, but very excited to be here.”

With Hays returning, Hyde isn’t sure he can find adequate playing time for all his outfielders.

“I don’t know that, honestly,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got four other outfielders plus [Ryan] O’Hearn. It’s a good problem to have, but we have a lot of guys playing very well.”

Kjerstad started two games in right field and two in left. Hyde thought he made strides defensively.

“I thought he played really well Saturday afternoon,” he said. “A really tough left field to play, the toughest in the big leagues … I thought he played well since he was here. It [the demotion] was nothing performance-based at all. It was more of just, ‘we need this guy to get more playing time and get some consistent at-bats.’”

Stowers had just four at-bats against left-handers in his first two seasons but hit well against them during spring training.

“I’m going to match up as well as I possibly can just like I do with everybody else,” Hyde said. “Kyle took some good swings off some spring training left-handers, and we’ll see how it goes here.”

Stowers hit .240 with an .856 OPS at Norfolk with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs.

“I think I’ve done pretty well,” Stowers said. “Obviously, the power numbers have been there … Was getting in a rhythm and starting to put together better at-bats more consistently and feeling good.”

“I haven’t seen him play yet this year, but I’m happy to have him,” Hyde said.

Hays had been on the 10-injured list because of the calf issue. In five rehab games for Double-A Bowie, Hays hit .357 (5-for-14) with two home runs and three RBIs.

“He’s available,” Hyde said. “He played nine innings yesterday and went and tested it [the calf] this afternoon, so he’s available.”

McKenna, who is out of options, cleared waivers at the end of spring training and was assigned outright to Norfolk. He had his contract purchased on April 26th when top prospect Jackson Holliday was optioned to Norfolk.

McKenna hit .375 (3-for-8) in nine games with two home runs and two RBIs.

“He is a clubhouse favorite and well liked in the dugout and the clubhouse with the energy that he brings,” Hyde said. “Hoping for the best for him, whether that’s getting claimed by another team, back in Triple-A with us, whatever the best situation is for him, personally.”

Since McKenna has already been outrighted, he could elect free agency if he is not claimed by another team when he’s put on waivers.

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