With shoulder now sound, Austin Hays looks to earn a roster spot

SARASOTA, Fla. - After a stellar 2017 season, one that started with him in the Carolina League and ended in the American League, Austin Hays’ chance to make the Orioles opening day roster was briefly derailed this spring.

The Orioles’ 22-year-old outfielder dealt with a sore shoulder early in camp. An MRI showed some inflammation behind his right shoulder. Hays got a cortisone injection Feb. 28 and missed six games. He returned to the lineup as the designated hitter on March 7 and then missed three more days. But he has now played in the last six games for the Orioles.

This morning, Hays pronounced his shoulder issues as completely resolved.

Austin Hays swinging gray sidebar.jpg“Yeah, it’s very good,” he said. “Been starting to really let it loose. It’s been good throwing every inning in the games I’ve been in and during infield and outfield (drills). Hasn’t been sore at all, even the day after a game. Everything has been positive.

“It was just kind of, the first time I took infield, I just threw the ball harder than I should have. I was a bit antsy to get out there. I was little sore and tight and it continued to get worse for four or five days.”

Hays said that now that he has gone through that soreness, he will need to manage his shoulder more often to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

“We’ve gotten it behind us, but just to be cautious, we’re going to do some rotator cuff stuff and some arm care stuff that I’d never done before,” he said. “But I’ve never had an arm injury before. Now that I have had something wrong, I need to be more cautious taking care of myself and putting in the work before going out to throw that I didn’t do before.”

Hays, a finalist last season for Baseball America’s minor league Player of the Year award, said he has not been reticent to cut a throw loose in practice or during a game.

“When I was throwing for the first time in a while (after returning), I was being pretty easy with it. But then I threw one and then a little harder and a little harder and it felt good. No mental hurdles,” he said.

Now he will try to use the rest of this camp to make the opening day roster. Being out of the lineup has made that tougher.

“I’ve managed to still continue to get my at-bats in. I don’t think I am that far behind the pack as far as innings and at-bats. No frustrations or anything. There is still time left and I’m still competing, working every day to try and find myself a spot,” he said.

Manager Buck Showalter said as Hays has gotten back in the lineup in recent days, the Orioles have seen some of the abilities they knew they would.

“We saw it last year,” Showalter said. “Obviously, at the Double-A level and the Carolina League, he did as well as anyone in the game statistically in the minors. The other parts of the game are the things you kind of learn more. Very much like (Anthony) Santander. The game, sooner or later, will expose your good and things you might be challenged with. He’s got a chance to be an all-around player and contribute in a lot of ways.”

Hays is batting .192 (5-for-26) over nine spring games with no extra-base hits and three RBIs. He has played six consecutive games going 4-for-15 in that span.

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