Hays has arrived at Camden Yards and is part of the expanded roster.
Major League Baseball notified teams that players on the 40-man roster can report to the AFL in October instead of Sept. 11, with games starting a week later. The Orioles are allowed to bring up Hays for a few weeks.
“On Thursday we got a memo from the league and they and the Players Association had discussed the fact that the Arizona Fall League was starting three weeks earlier than usual this year and they had decided to allow players on 40-man rosters to report to the fall league late in October,” said executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias. “So as a result, pleased to announce we’re able to call up Austin Hays and allow him to play with the big league team for the month of September, and then he will go to the fall league for the month of October.
“I’m glad they made the decision because, ideally, we just wanted him to get at-bats, and in the fall league we were, with it being an either/or choice at the time between the fall league and the September call-ups, it was two months of at-bats versus one month. Probably with not 100 percent playing time here in September.
“Now, the fact that we’re able to do both, it’s kind of the best of both worlds. I do think that it will be nice for him to spend some time with the major league club, but the main thing is he still needs seasoning, he still needs the at-bats, and that fall league stuff will be important for him.”
Elias said he wasn’t anticipating the rule change.
“It was a surprise,” he said. “This was the first year that they had the fall league starting on Sept. 11. Usually it’s an October report date, so I think that the league and the PA hadn’t realized the degree to which 40-man roster players in Austin’s situation, teams had this conundrum. So we got a memo from them a few days ago. I believe Sept. 5 is when the memo came out. We weren’t expecting it.”
Hays won’t be in the lineup every day, but he’ll get his share of at-bats.
“I don’t think it will be a seven-day-a-week thing,” Elias said. “We’ve got a lot of outfielders that we want to see. But we felt that the right thing to do was to call him up at this point once the rule change came out, and we’ll get him as much playing time as makes sense. But we also have to keep finding at-bats for (Anthony) Santander and Dwight Smith and Mason Williams.”
Ryan Mountcastle won’t be part of the expanded roster, as I reported earlier in the week.
“There was a lot of rationale behind it,” Elias said. “We still think he is developing. We’re thrilled with the season he had offensively. If there’s something to nitpick there it’s his plate discipline, and he knows that. He’s not a big walker and he’s still striking out a little bit. But that’s not to put a damper on what he’s done at age 22 in Triple-A.
“He’s also still doing some work on his defense and, long story short, I think he’s going to spend some more time in the minor leagues as a result of those two things. But also at the major league level here we’ve got quite a few players here that we want to provide these at-bats to in September. A guy like (Renato) Núñez or even a Mason Williams and a Santander.
“There’s just a lot of people here that we need to continue evaluating, both in terms of our short- and long-term plans. So just didn’t see the avenue to call up Ryan at this time. But he’s going to be here and he’s going to be a big part of our future at some point.”
Williams had his contract selected after rosters could expand.
“First of all, we thought he deserved it with his play in Norfolk,” Elias said. “But also, he was somebody that we wanted to get a look at at the major league level as somebody who could potentially be a center field option for us in the event that Hays or (Cedric) Mullins or the other contenders for that position aren’t ready or aren’t ready to step up. So wanted to get a look at him and allow the big league staff to have a feel for him too.”
Mullins and pitcher Keegan Akin won’t join the club. Elias sounded confident that Akin will pitch for the Orioles in 2020.
More to come on this story, including comments from Hays.