Hyde on Santander in center field and more (O’s win 4-1)

TORONTO - He’s only played three innings in his pro career in center field, but Anthony Santander will get the start there tonight when the Orioles open a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

That counts one inning in the Venezuelan Winter League and two in the American League. In the June 26 home game versus San Diego, Santander moved from left field to center for the final two innings.

“Going to give him a look out there,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Want to see his bat in the lineup and he’s been working out some in center field (pregame) and want to get him out there.

“There will be challenges, for sure. I talked to him about it a few weeks ago. But you’re never going to get experience unless you get thrown out there. Where we are this year, guys are going to get put in spots to show what they can do.

“He’s made some nice plays and throws well and takes his defense seriously. He works hard on defense every single day. The more positions you can play on the field, the more value you will have.”

Santander-Robs-Gurriel-Orange-sidebar.jpgSantander tonight becomes the sixth player to start in center for the club this year following Cedric Mullins (19 games), Stevie Wilkerson (26), Keon Broxton (26), Joey Rickard (13) and Drew Jackson (one).

Mullins hit just .094 in 22 games in Baltiimore and is batting .211 with an OPS of .591 since being sent down to Triple-A.

“I think he’s had his struggles down there,” Hyde said of Mullins. “I follow our Triple-A team closely. He’s still playing a real good center field and trying to make some adjustments offensively. I don’t think he’s had the half he’d like and we’re hoping he turns it on in the second half.”

Santander said he’s up for the challenge of center field tonight.

“It’s an opportunity that the manager is providing to me, so I’m planning on taking advantage and will try to give him my best effort,” Santander said through team interpreter Ramón Alarcón this afternoon. “I think the key (to playing better defense this year) has been keeping my body in better shape throughout the season. Also working with Arnie (Beyeler, first base coach and outfield instructor) in BP. He’s been hitting a lot of fungos to me.”

Santander has gotten chances in the big leagues in parts of the past three seasons since the Orioles selected him in the 2016 Rule 5 draft from Cleveland. But he seems as comfortable now as at any time.

In 25 games, Santander is batting .274/.340/.463 with four homers, 13 RBIs and an OPS of .803. Over his past 11 games, he’s hitting .302 with three homers and eight RBIs.

“Yes. I feel that this season they have provided me the opportunity to play on a daily basis and trying to take advantage of that and happy about that,” he said.

Getting every day at-bats has been helpful to him in making improvements to his game.

“This game is about adjustments, so I’m just trying to make adjustments to help me,” he said.

O’s lead early: Chris Davis hit a solo homer and Jonathan Villar singled in a run as the O’s took a 2-0 lead in the second. It was Davis’ 20th career homer at Rogers Centre.

Jays finally score: Dylan Bundy kept Toronto off the board through 6 2/3 innings until Brandon Drury’s homer pulled them within 2-1. Richard Bleier comes on to try and protect the 2-1 lead.

Davis does it again: Davis singled in two runs in the top of the ninth for a 4-1 lead and Paul Fry worked the ninth for his second save.

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