Hays on All-Star balloting and his first priority

Austin Hays isn’t tracking the All-Star voting. He didn’t know that the first updates became available yesterday, or that he sat 19th among outfielders in the American League.

The shoulders didn’t shrug, but his enthusiasm level was fairly low.

Hays would be honored to represent the Orioles at Dodger Stadium. He’s just preoccupied with trying to help them win the games that count.

“I hadn’t seen anything about it,” he said. “I’m just showing up, trying to play every day. I think we’ve got, what, three weeks until All-Star break? So, that’s a lot of games, a lot of baseball left. A lot can happen, a lot of numbers can change in that amount of time. I’ll just focus on that once it gets here.”

Hays, a third-round draft pick in 2016 out of Jacksonville University, received 128,430 votes by yesterday’s count. The Yankees' Aaron Judge led every player in the majors with 1,512,368.

The Angels’ Mike Trout was second among AL outfielders with 1,295,854 votes, followed by the Blue Jays’ George Springer with 622,063.

Hays isn’t climbing that mountain to the top, but he has a shot at being chosen as a reserve. He began last night batting .280/.342/.456 with 15 doubles, nine home runs and 37 RBIs in 63 games. His 67 hits tied for 10th in the league. His four outfield assists tied for fourth. He’s now gone 61 consecutive games without an error.

Four strikeouts last night shouldn’t smear his campaign.

Wouldn’t he enjoy the chance to play in Los Angeles next month?

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “That’s an accolade that every time you look up your name, that’s something it would always say next to it is ‘All-Star.’ If that were something that were to happen this year, that would be amazing and a big bonus, but I’m just trying to stay healthy and play every game leading up to the All-Star break.”

“I think we’ve got three weeks left, so keep playing the baseball that I’ve been playing this year and keep staying healthy, and we can keep winning games. If it works out, then it works out. That’s just a bonus.”

Phase 1 of the voting process ends on June 30 at 2 p.m. Fans can submit up to five ballots per a 24-hour period on Major League Baseball platforms including orioles.com/vote.

The top two vote-getters at each position, and top six outfielders, advance to the second phase to determine who makes the All-Star teams and starts for each league.

The Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton is fourth among AL outfielders with 504,537 votes, followed by the Angels’ Taylor Ward with 497,361 and the Twins’ Byron Buxton with 403,050.

National recognition is slow to come to many of the Orioles and Hays is no exception. He’s 19th while New York’s Joey Gallo is four spots ahead of him. Gallo began last night slashing .186/.295/.371 with four doubles, nine home runs, 18 RBIs and 73 strikeouts in 56 games.

“I think that (recognition) will improve,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Austin’s had an All-Star type first half and deserves a lot of consideration, and we’ll be pumping him up, hopefully, organizationally to try to get him in.”

Trey Mancini is the only other Oriole to appear among the leaders. He’s seventh among designated hitters with 91,751 votes. The Astros’ Yordan Álvarez is first with 835,669.

There haven’t been many seasons lately when the Orioles could argue for multiple representatives. They had five in 2016 with Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, Mark Trumbo, Zack Britton and Brad Brach. Jonathan Schoop was alone in 2017, Machado in 2018, John Means in 2019 and Cedric Mullins last year.

The 2022 club also figures to push hard for the inclusion of Mancini, reliever Jorge López and first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. There’s also outfielder Anthony Santander, tied with Mountcastle for the team lead in home runs with 12. Santander was second last night in on-base percentage at .345, first in walks with 29 and third in RBIs with 35.

“I haven’t looked at the numbers, but I feel like there’s probably four or five guys in our bullpen who could definitely be All-Stars with the numbers and innings they’ve put up this year,” Hays said.

“Yeah, we’ve got some guys who are playing really good baseball right now and it’s good that they’re getting some recognition and some attention with some All-Star talk. It’s good for the program. It just shows the state that we’re in as a whole right now and guys are getting talked about.”

“No doubt,” Hyde said. “You could pick any one of our bullpen guys, but especially López for me. He’s won us a ton of games and is having an amazing year. Mountcastle and Mancini deserve some consideration, as well.”

Hays could be talked into the Home Run Derby if invited. Mancini participated last summer and finished second to the Mets’ Pete Alonso.

“That’s something, I’d have to think about it, but I think that would be really cool. That would be fun,” said Hays, who reached the second deck at Camden Yards this season with a 464-foot blast.

“I’m not a guy who can hit a ball 500 feet. I’d probably have to pull most of them right down the line to try to compete with guys that are hitting them out dead center and right-center like Trey last year. He was just playing pepper oppo. But I don’t see why not. I think it's fun.”

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