Hays moving in right direction with surgically repaired ankle

Double-A Bowie outfielder Austin Hays started a running program on Monday as part of his rehabilitation. An important ... wait for it ... step in his quest to compete for a job with the Orioles next season.

Hays underwent surgery on Sept. 13 to repair a stress fracture and some cartilage defects in his left ankle. Dr. Robert Anderson, a specialist based in Green Bay, Wis., inserted two screws in the ankle and performed a bone graft to repair the cartilage and prevent a cyst from returning.

So far, the procedure has been successful and Hays sounds encouraged by his progress.

Austin-Hays-Bowie-at-bat-orange-sidebar.jpgHays was limited to 75 games this season, 66 at Bowie, due to the injury. However, he finished the season with the Baysox and was ticketed to play in the Arizona Fall League before Anderson recommended a surgical procedure.

The Orioles expect Hays to be ready for spring training.

Hays batted .242/.271/.432 with 12 doubles, two triples, 12 home runs and 43 RBIs with Bowie. He also went 7-for-37 in nine games with short-season Single-A Aberdeen on an injury rehab assignment.

Give this man a fresh start. He needs it.

Hays opened the season on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder that cost him about two weeks of spring training. He was a candidate to break camp with the team, but poor health sabotaged his chances.

Logic says that Hays will be assigned again to Bowie while he attempts to work his way back to the majors after a September 2017 promotion. Circumstances say that Hays is an ideal fit if healthy and productive, given how there isn’t a blockage in right field, the payroll is coming down and an outfield stocked with homegrown players brings tremendous appeal.

Trey Mancini in left field, Cedric Mullins in center and Hays or DJ Stewart in right. Ryan McKenna, after tearing up the Arizona Fall League, trying to position himself for a shot at a backup job or more.

You know it’s run through the minds of the people in the front office, player development and scouting - past and present - as if on a loop. But not necessarily to the point where prospects are rushed and overwhelmed in lieu of acquiring a veteran place-holder.

Mancini is a lock to stay on the roster, with the assumption that he continues to get most of his starts in left field while Chris Davis remains at first base. Nothing is etched in stone until - and this always bears repeating, - we know who’s making the decisions.

Mullins would have to play his way out of center field. I mean, he’d really have to spiral. Otherwise, go ahead and pencil him into the position.

Former executive vice president Dan Duquette pushed to get Stewart to Baltimore, and it finally happened in September. Duquette’s removal could affect the first-round pick, but who knows? It likely rests on how Stewart performs in spring training.

Adam Jones is a free agent, as you know, and it’s impossible to determine his market on this date, especially with last winter’s freeze. A one-year deal on paper would work for the Orioles, but in reality it’s as likely to happen as a season devoid of rain delays and extra innings.

Front office changes aren’t expected to alter how Jones fits in the rebuild. Ownership remains in place.

With Jones exiting the 40-man roster, the Orioles had a space waiting for pitcher Branden Kline. His contract was purchased yesterday before he could become a minor league free agent.

More moves are coming to provide spots for Hays, Richard Bleier, Pedro Araujo and Mark Trumbo as they come off the 60-day disabled list. I’m not expecting the Orioles to activate Gabriel Ynoa and return him to the 40-man roster after he failed to pitch for them this season.

I’ve already written how Jace Peterson was informed that he’s being put on outright waivers.

AFL note: Left-hander Chris Lee allowed only one hit in five scoreless innings Monday for the Glendale Desert Dogs to lower his ERA to 2.19.

Tanner Chleborad tossed a scoreless inning yesterday, striking out one batter. He was credited with a “hold” while lowering his ERA to 2.00.

McKenna, out of yesterday’s lineup, will find out this afternoon whether he’s been voted into Saturday’s AFL Fall Stars Game.

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