A familiar story gained its latest chapter Monday as the Orioles placed outfielder Austin Hays on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain.
The talented 25-year-old who’s been slowed by various injuries since making his major league debut late in the 2017 season exited Sunday’s win in Boston moments after his two-run double in the top of the third inning. Hays was off to a 2-for-10 start to begin the 2021 regular season, but he was coming off an outstanding spring in which he batted .392 with four home runs, four doubles, a triple, 13 runs batted in, and an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.192 in 56 plate appearances in the Grapefruit League. That performance coupled with his .988 OPS in 57 plate appearances last September led many to anticipate a breakout season, a prediction that will now be put on hold.
Manager Brandon Hyde said Hays was “still sore” prior to the roster move being made, but the Orioles didn’t have the luxury of waiting out his recovery since they’re carrying 14 pitches and only a three-man bench to open the season. Hays hasn’t played in more than 108 games in a season since 2017, his first full professional season after being selected in the third round of the 2016 amateur draft.
Recalled to take Hays’ roster spot in the Bronx, outfielder Ryan McKenna, 24, was batting ninth and making his major league debut against the New York Yankees on Monday. The 2015 fourth-round pick ranks 15th on Baltimore’s latest MLB.com top 30 prospects list and has excellent speed and defensive ability, but he batted just .232 with a .686 OPS at Single-A Frederick in 2019. McKenna had been on the Orioles’ taxi squad for the first road trip of the season.
Prior to Monday’s game, the Orioles also activated right-handed relief pitcher Shawn Armstrong from the paternity list and optioned right-handed reliever Cole Sulser to the alternate training site at Double-A Bowie. Sulser pitched two scoreless innings in Sunday’s 11-3 win over the Red Sox.