What’s next for center field after Broxton’s removal?

PHOENIX - The Orioles have two openings on their 40-man roster after yesterday’s decision to designate outfielder Keon Broxton for assignment.

The decision actually came on Saturday at the latest, and it was announced yesterday. But I digress ...

In past years it was an indication that they intended to fill those spots via non-waiver deadline trades. Create room and strike some deals.

Former executive Dan Duquette would take someone off the 40-man and you’d wait for the corresponding move.

This year’s version of the Orioles is operating on a different level. They’re sellers who aren’t expected to seek 40-man players in return. More likely young prospects for the lower levels of the farm system.

There could be an exception. I’m choosy about which limbs I hang from. But that’s the industry buzz.

In the case of Broxton, he’s out of options and the Orioles wanted to add a bullpen arm - Branden Kline hopped aboard the shuttle again - without optioning Tanner Scott or Jimmy Yacabonis. They also know that they can carry a fourth bench player with the pitcher hitting in National League ballparks.

No designated hitter means one more reserve.

There’s also the possibility of the Orioles selecting a player’s contract from the minors, which requires space on the 40-man. Or making a waiver claim.

Santander-Hyde-After-Win-White-Sidebar.jpgI asked manager Brandon Hyde yesterday whether the Broxton move was an indication that we’d see more of Anthony Santander in center field or whether someone else could get an opportunity.

Hyde talked about Santander and Stevie Wilkerson.

“I think in the meantime, it’s more center field for Wilkerson and Santander,” he said. “That’s what we’ve got right now, and we’re going with it.”

Right now.

Subject to change.

Maybe it works out splendidly in the end. In a season filled with experimentation and evaluations, Santander could prove to be an ideal center fielder despite his corner experience and body type.

Wilkerson made a tremendous running catch in right-center yesterday after replacing Santander in the top of the ninth inning to preserve the shutout. He didn’t pitch and still recorded a save.

I had no idea he could cover that much ground.

The more likely scenario is Austin Hays returning to the majors for the first time since September 2017, but he has to stay healthy and put up the numbers. The Orioles are waiting to plug him into center field. They would have done so already if he had earned it.

Hays went 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored yesterday, and is 11-for-30 with two home runs, seven RBIs and eight runs in his last seven games. Going back a little further, he was 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs on July 12 in Durham.

Non-roster outfielder Mason Williams is trying to get the team’s attention. A former prospect with the Yankees and Reds, Williams signed a minor league contract on March 28 and began yesterday slashing .300/.360/.477 with 10 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs and 50 RBIs in 83 games. But I haven’t heard any talk about him around the Orioles.

Maybe I have my ears pressed in the wrong spots.

Cedric Mullins won’t be a consideration as long as he continues to scuffle at the plate. He’s gone from Orioles opening day center fielder to Norfolk to Double-A Bowie.

Broxton’s removal from the 25- and 40-man rosters seemed inevitable, but I assumed that an outfielder would replace him. More moves are coming. But “right now” it’s Santander and Wilkerson sharing center after having little-to-no experience at the position.

Santander made his fifth start yesterday in a spot that he seemed to outgrow, at least as he sensed it, after signing with the Indians as an amateur free agent in 2011.

“I think he looks great,” Hyde said. “I thought he played a really good center field (Saturday) night. I thought he made that catch that they didn’t rule a catch and I lost the challenge on. I think he’s done a nice job. I like the way he throws, I think he positions himself well.

“It’s actually great experience for him to get out there, to increase his value and to be a guy who can play all three spots out there.”

* So the Orioles allow a season-high 17 runs Saturday night and combine on a one-hit shutout the following day.

Weird, right?

Which team was the most recent to do this? The incredible research team at STATS naturally had the answer in a matter of minutes.

The Orioles are the first team to throw a one-hitter or no-hitter the game after allowing 17-plus runs since the Athletics on July 4-5, 1979. Oakland lost 17-6 on July 4 in Anaheim and won 3-0 the next day on a one-hit shutout by Rick Langford.

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