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Orioles shuffle outfield depth by recalling Stowers, activating Hays from IL

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BALTIMORE — The Orioles shuffled their outfield depth prior to Monday’s series opener against Toronto by recalling Kyle Stowers from Triple-A Norfolk and activating Austin Hays from the 10-day injured list.

To make room on the 26-man roster, Baltimore optioned 2020 first-round pick Heston Kjerstad to Norfolk and designated veteran Ryan McKenna for assignment. Manager Brandon Hyde expressed the club’s desire for Kjerstad to get more playing with the Tides after he had just 17 plate appearances since being promoted to Baltimore on April 23. The lefty-swinging Kjerstad went 2-for-14 with two walks and six strikeouts while making just four starts.

This marks the second time since the end of spring training that McKenna — who homered twice in nine plate appearances this season — has been designated. Out of minor-league options, the 27-year-old owns a career .634 on-base plus slugging percentage in 517 plate appearances for the Orioles dating back to the 2021 season.

It remains to be seen whether Stowers’ playing time will look any different than Kjerstad’s as he is back in the major leagues for the first time in nearly a year. The 26-year-old called his return “a cool full-circle moment” as he received the news that he was being recalled on Sunday and found out he was being sent to the minors on Mother’s Day last year. Stowers hasn’t played extensively in previous major league stints, going a combined 25-for-121 with three home runs, 11 runs batted in, and a .598 OPS in 2022 and 2023.

On the heels of a good Grapefruit League showing, Stowers was batting .240 with 11 home runs, 11 doubles, 32 RBIs, and an .856 OPS at Norfolk this season and says he better knows what to expect in the majors this time around.

(Kyle Stowers discusses his return to Orioles prior to Monday’s series opener against Toronto.)

“I feel ready. I feel ready to help this team win,” said Stowers, who was not in Monday’s starting lineup. “Whatever my role is, whatever I’m called to do, I’m just going to go out there and give it my all and have a good time [and] play with a lot of gratitude. I’m just happy to be here.”

A 2019 second-round pick out of Stanford, the lefty-swinging Stowers is aiming to rebound from a difficult 2023 in which injuries limited him to just 75 games in the minors and resulted in him falling off the radar for a potential late-season return to the Orioles.

Hays had been on the IL since suffering a left calf strain in Kansas City on April 20. He went 5-for-14 with two homers and a double in five rehab games with Double-A Bowie. The 28-year-old’s 2024 season was off to a brutal start prior to his injury as he went 5-for-45 and essentially lost his left field job to Colton Cowser.

Hyde said Hays “feels good” physically and was available to play Monday night, but he wasn’t in the starting lineup against the Blue Jays.

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