Hays on slump: “The world is not falling, you know?"

One night after starting in left field against a Twins right-hander, Austin Hays returns to the bench while the Orioles try to claim another series.

Colton Cowser moves from right to left and Hays takes a seat on the bench while stuck on three hits in 39 at-bats.

“It’s baseball,” Hays said this afternoon. “Baseball’s tough, it can be really hard at times. You’ve got to stay focused on the right things, stay positive every day, continue to get lost in the work, make sure you’re doing the right things, you’re focusing on the right things.

“Right now, I feel good at the plate. I’m hitting the ball hard. I made some adjustments around that Boston series. I was able to drive the ball in the right-center field gap there. I’ve been hitting the ball hard since that series. You’ve just got to wait for them to find the hole. You’ve got to stay patient and stay focused and stay positive. It’s a long game, it’s a long season. We’re still in the first month. Just stay positive and get through it.”

Hays was reminded again about the odd nature of the sport - and it can feel cruel - that he gets a bloop single to snap an 0-for-26 streak but lined out last night at 104.8 mph off the bat. He barrels a ball and it’s aimed at the third baseman.

“That’s how the game goes,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s going your way and sometimes you feel like it’s complete opposite. But we play every single day, so it’s up to you to make sure you keep yourself in a good, solid state of mind, and you come out of the other side of it stronger. Things will turn around, the ball will start to fall. You’ve just got to keep hitting the ball hard.”

Hays has slumped in the past and gotten hot. It builds confidence in handling the situation. But this is an extreme dry spell.

“I’m fine. I’m gonna be OK. Everything’s going to be all right,” he said, playing with the media’s line of questioning and gentler tone.

“The world is not falling, you know? This team is still really good and I’m coming to the field every day ready to help the team win and I know that things are going to turn around for me and we’re going to look up at the end of the season and this might be the best season that I’ve had in my career. That’s how the game goes. There are a lot of guys who have started a season cold before and had the best season of their career. You have to remain optimistic and remain positive.

“I’ve seen how the game goes. I’ve been playing for a long time, I’ve been in the big leagues for a while. I know that things turn around really fast.”

Hays rated Cedric Mullins’ diving catch last night as No. 1 among the many choices for the center fielder’s all-time gems.

“I’ve seen him make some crazy ones, especially some robbed homers, some balls around the wall, but that one being as close as I was, I felt like he was floating for a full two seconds. That’s the most hang time I’ve ever seen him get on a dive.”

Hays assumed that Mullins had no chance as the ball left Kyle Farmer’s bat.

“Think that ball would have one-hopped the wall and he caught it 30 feet away from the wall,” Hays said, “so that was unbelievable.”

James McCann is getting another start behind the plate, his seventh in 17 games. Adley Rutschman is the designated hitter for the sixth time.

“Anytime I can give Adley a day off behind the plate I’m going to, especially early in the year,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “With a day game tomorrow my choice really is, do I catch Adley tomorrow or catch him tonight. We felt like catch McCann tonight and going to catch Adley tomorrow.”

Hyde isn’t attempting to match catchers with specific pitchers.

“Sometimes certain catchers and pitchers work better together than others,” he said. “With this catching group that we have with these two guys, I’m not trying to pair up, at least of right now, because they’re both so good and pitchers like throwing to both of them.

“It’s more of setting kind of the week schedule for both of the guys. Day game, night game, lefty, righty. Things like that.”

Rutschman and McCann have been in the same lineup in six games, the risk being the forfeiting of the designated hitter in the later innings.

“I probably play a National League style more than anybody, and that’s not on purpose and I’m not trying to be cute with it or anything like that,” Hyde said. “It’s mainly that, I think I’m probably one of the only managers who DHs the other catcher. Like when Adley doesn’t (catch), normally he DHs. And so, if I ever put him in the game behind the plate I’d lose the DH. Usually, that’s in the eighth or the ninth inning, sometimes extras, and then I have to put the pitcher’s spot somewhere.”

This can lead the double-switch that was so prevalent in the National League prior to the universal designated hitter.

“I like managing like that but I’m not trying to do that,” Hyde said. “I prefer not to. Let’s put it that way. I prefer not to. But when you’re managing like that every day in the National League, that was fun.

“When you have Adley Rutschman on your team, you want him in the lineup as much as possible, so he’s not catching. I’m fortunate to have such a really good player. I can’t catch him every night, so I want him to hit as much as possible, too. Sometimes, the other manager, they’re not used to it.”

Left-hander Cionel Pérez, on the injured list with an oblique strain, is ready to begin throwing bullpen sessions and should be cleared early next week for live batting practice to launch his progression.

“Not too far away,” Hyde said.

Hyde was asked about his emergency catcher. The assumption is Ramón Urías, but Hyde tossed out an intriguing name while having fun with the topic.

“(Corbin) Burnes caught, he told me,” Hyde said. “Burnes was a catcher in high school or something like that. Please. Let’s not even go there.”

The Orioles are off Thursday and play a three-game weekend series in Kansas City.

Friday: Dean Kremer vs. Alec Marsh
Saturday: Corbin Burnes vs. Cole Ragans
Sunday: Cole Irvin vs. Seth Lugo

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