Bowie, MD. - The Orioles got some good news today on Double-A outfielder Austin Hays. He has been out since May 24 with an ankle bone bruise and tendinitis and has been in a walking boot. But he is expected to get that boot off in a week and then slowly begin some light baseball activities.
Hays was the Orioles 2017 minor league Player of the Year and a finalist for Baseball America’s national Player of the Year. But he injured his shoulder in spring training and then got off to a slow start here at Bowie. Over his first 43 games, Hays is batting .224/.259/.374 with four doubles, two triples, six homers and 18 RBIs.
Hays had a .960 OPS in 64 games in the Eastern League last year and ended the season with the Orioles in September. But this season his OPS is .633 with the Baysox.
But now at least he knows there is a light at the end of the tunnel with his right ankle injury.
“Once I get the boot off, I’ll start seeing how it feels,” Hays said this afternoon. “I can rehab accordingly. Not push it too hard at first. Once we get some mobility going and once it starts feeling like it’s been active again, I can go out on the field and starting throwing and hitting. If it all goes according to plan, about a week after I take the boot off I should be rolling again.
So when might Hays be game-ready again? He could go on a rehab assignment to lower levels of the minors before rejoining Bowie.
“I’d say two weeks or a little after that (when the boot is off) if everything goes perfectly with no bumps in the road, that would be the fastest,” Hays said.
One thing Hays does not know is how he got a bone bruise and ankle tendinitis.
“We don’t know how it came about. It kind of crept up slowly. I thought it was minor and played through it for a while. It got worse and set me back,” he said.
That led to an MRI and the walking boot, which he finally can shed in about a week.
“Great news. Great news,” Baysox manager Gary Kendall said. “Just to see the prospect of him getting back on the field is great, because he provides a lot to your lineup.”
Right now Bowie third baseman Ryan Mountcastle is sure providing a lot to Kendall’s lineup. He is on a tear that has seen him go 14-for-24 with five multi-hit games his past six contests. In 44 games for the year he’s batting .313/.363/.506 with seven homers and 30 RBIs. Mountcastle is batting .341 with an OPS of .945 this month.
“I’m just staying within my approach lately,” Mountcastle said. “I feel good and am seeing the ball well. Just trying to hit the ball hard. I try not to think too much when I’m struggling or doing well. I just try to play hard every day. It’s a cruel sport and I know it can completely turn around in one game, but I just have to go out there and stay level-headed.”
Mountcastle didn’t start his season until May 10. He was hit by a pitch in a minor league spring training game in mid-March and suffered a hairline fracture of his right hand. But he’s back now and not limited in any way. He continues to work on his defense at third base, but his bat is obviously handling the Eastern League just fine right now.
Bowie lefty bullpen pitcher Reid Love is headed up to Triple-A Norfolk. It will be the first time at that level for the O’s 2015 10th-round selection. With Bowie, Love was 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA over 11 games. Bowie today added outfieder Jaycob Brugman from Triple-A as infielder Sharlon Schoop went on the disabled list with an ankle injury.
Outfielder Ryan McKenna is not in today’s lineup, but he’s fine. It’s just a day off for the center fielder, who is batting .227 (5-for-22) in his first six games with Bowie since his promotion from Single-A Frederick, where he was batting .377.
Left-hander Keegan Akin (8-5, 2.53 ERA) gets the start for Bowie (33-42) tonight against the Akron RubberDucks (43-33) at Prince George’s Stadium. Akin leads the Eastern League in strikeouts, ranks second in ERA and tied for second in wins. His ERA is 1.16 over his past five starts.