Hays' early hitting and fielding drills bring him closer to return

Austin Hays took coach’s batting practice this afternoon and did some outfield work, including shagging fly balls, and is nearing a return to the Orioles lineup.

Hays has been missing from it since the final game in St. Louis, when reliever Génesis Cabrera stepped on his left hand on a play at first base.

“My hand’s feeling a lot better today,” Hays said while standing at his locker. “The swelling was pretty bad the last couple of days, but the stitches have settled, so now I can regain some baseball activities today.”

The Orioles were able to avoid putting Hays on the injured list. The initial fear was that he suffered a break, but he escaped “only” with lacerations.

“Originally, it was kind of unsure, but then the doctor said that I would be able to play with the stitches in, I wouldn’t have to wait for them to come out before I could resume,” he said.

“The swelling in my hand was a lot worse than what we thought it was going to be right away, so the last couple days we’ve just been trying to battle that swelling. Now the swelling’s down and the stitches have settled a little bit, so we’re just trying to find something where I can keep that wrapped.”

Hays is wearing a batting glove on his hand for the first time since he was 10 years old. It also will be worn under his fielding glove as an added layer of protection, and he has a wrap for his pinky finger that’s missing chunk of flesh.

“We’re trying some different contraptions right now to just see if we can get it manageable for the game,” he said.

“I’m not going to put one on my top hand, though. I will only have one on my bottom hand.”

The Orioles were swept in Detroit with Hays on the bench and Ryan Mountcastle on the injured list with a left wrist/forearm strain.

“It’s tough to see your team out there,” Hays said. “You’ve got to stand on the sidelines, you can’t do anything. I’m trying to be available for anything I can, whether it’s defense or baserunning. I just haven’t been able to hit the last few days, but I feel like I’m really close now to being able to get back out there and help my team.”

Hays’ hand was cleated as he dived into the bag with two outs in the seventh inning, a dangerous approach that was instinctual.

“That was just one of those plays,” he said. “You saw another strange one yesterday with (Jorge) Mateo and their first baseman (Spencer Torkelson). He’s a speed guy, he bunted a ball down the line, the first baseman’s making a play on it, Mateo’s running hard down the line. He tries to let the ball go foul, can’t get out of the way. There’s nothing really you can do about that. It’s two guys just playing the game hard and those things are going to happen.

“I saw the pitcher field the ball, (Albert) Pujols wasn’t going to be able to get back to first base. It was unoccupied, I thought I could slide around the pitcher, but it was just, unfortunately he stepped on my hand. It was one of those unavoidable baseball plays that, I probably won’t have that happen again my whole career, hopefully. But I’ve never had my hand stepped on before and I’ve been playing this game for over 20 years, so it’s just one of those baseball plays and you can’t really explain it.”

Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t blame Hays for the attempt.

“It’s a baseball play,” he said. “It’s pretty instinctual. I understood why he’s trying to beat the hit out. Pitcher’s covering and it was just unfortunate.

“Normally, I don’t encourage sliding head-first into the plate or first base, but that was just instincts by Austin trying to get there.”

Hays has been subjected to past freakish injuries and now can add this one to it.

“Austin plays the way he does,” Hyde said. “This was him trying to beat the guy to the bag, and just steps on him in kind of a tender, weird spot. Really, the whole foot got on top of his hand, so he’s got cuts in three different places from the spikes.”

Hyde just wants to get Hays and Mateo in the lineup again. Mateo’s collision with Torkelson left him with a bruised shoulder and chest.

“Both are better,” Hyde said. “Hays took coach’s BP in the cage, he’s going to go out and do some outfield work. He’s going to have glove on his left hand, which he’s not used to, but he did feel better.

“Mateo’s still got a little bit of left shoulder soreness. So hopefully these guys are available in the next day or two."

Hyde said Hays “possibly” could come off the bench tonight, when the Orioles begin a four-game series against the Yankees.

“Hays was really encouraged by how he felt swinging the bat in the cage,” Hyde said. “That was the first day he’s picked up the bat since getting stepped on.

“Mateo’s shoulder is still a little sore, so probably try to stay away from him if I can.”

Mateo is tied for second among shortstops with five defensive runs saved (DRS), according to FanGraphs.

The Orioles have stolen 20 bases this year, which ranks sixth in the American League and is tied for ninth in majors. Mateo (10) and Cedric Mullins (six) have combined to steal 80 percent of them. Mateo is tied with Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez for the major league lead.

For the Yankees
DJ LeMahieu DH
Josh Donaldson 3B
Anthony Rizzo 1B
Giancarlo Stanton RF
Gleyber Torres 2B
Joey Gallo LF
Isiah Kiner-Falefa SS
Jose Trevino C
Aaron Hicks CF

Luis Severino RHP

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