The Orioles’ 14-1 romp over the first-place Atlanta Braves last night had a distinct homegrown flavor. In Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart, Ryan Mountcastle, Chance Sisco and Austin Hays, the Orioles had five homegrown players in their starting lineup. That was the most of any game this season.
The five helped the club produce a season high in runs as they combined for nine hits, including two home runs and nine RBIs.
Hays just rejoined the club Monday, coming off the injured list. He had been out about a month and went 2-for-4 and scored two runs. His average was starting to tick up before he went on the IL with a non-displaced fracture of his left ribcage. Counting last night, he is batting .313 (10-for-32) over his past eight games, raising his average from .146 to .219 through 20 games.
Hays said the group of five players drafted and developed by the O’s having success can provide a lift for the entire organization.
“You are seeing guys have a lot of success in the big leagues right now that have gone through every step of the way at every level,” he said today via a Zoom interview. “Just shows you that we know what we are doing and we are making advances as an organization. Being able to go down to the camp where we have our 60-man player pool (at Bowie), seeing some of the arms that we have down there and some of the bats that we have that are going to be the next wave. Where we were in 2017 and 2018, 2022, 2023 the guys that are down there now are going to be making their next wave. I just think we have a really great young core and there is a lot more to keep coming.”
Hays got a lot of at-bats at the Bowie camp to get ready to return the Orioles. He said the quality of the arms he faced helped prep him to rejoin the club.
“I think it is being able to have consistent at-bats against good pitching.” he said. “There are a lot of really young, talented arms down there. They have big league stuff. You are seeing 95 to 97 (mph), you are seeing off-speed stuff and you are seeing a lot command. I think that has helped guys, from the offensive point of view. You are getting to face really good arms consistently.”
Hays rejoins a team with a host of outfielders that should compete for playing time over the next year or two, pending any roster moves. A group to include himself, Mountcastle, Mullins and Stewart along with Anthony Santander and Trey Mancini in addition to Yusniel Diaz, who is not yet on the 40-man roster, and Ryan McKenna, who is.
“There is a surplus of a lot of young outfielders,” said Hays. “These are guys I played with the last three or four years. I said it last time when we were stretching on the line. It was me, Mounty, DJ and Cedric. We were standing there and I was like, ‘The Bowie boys are back together.’ That was from 2017-2018. The guys that I came up with through the minor leagues, those are everybody that is in the big leagues right now. I just feel a little closer to the team (now) than when I first came up.”
Hays is batting .219/.293/260 in 20 games with a homer and five RBIs. He started in left field last night for the first time in the majors. He has 39 career starts in center field and nine in right field. It took Hays a while to make his way back after the club originally felt he could return after his 10 days on the IL were up.
“Originally, we had talked about just shutting everything down for three to five days and then resuming baseball activity,” Hays said. “But the whole idea was that I could take a deep breath without discomfort or pain. But I didn’t reach that point until about day 15 or 16. I ended up going about two weeks without throwing, running, hitting. Anything like that.
“So, when we did finally get to that point - I think it was about day 16 that I was able to breathe with no discomfort, that is when we started to do some small core stuff and light swinging and just continued to build up from there.”