SARASOTA, Fla. -- After Austin Hays' electrifying return to the big leagues last September, the energetic outfielder returned home to Jacksonville, Fla., with an uncharacteristic goal: to unwind. Another year wrought with injuries had concluded on a high note, with Hays dazzling back in the Majors to play a 21-game
SARASOTA, Fla. -- After Austin Hays' electrifying return to the big leagues last September, the energetic outfielder returned home to Jacksonville, Fla., with an uncharacteristic goal: to unwind. Another year wrought with injuries had concluded on a high note, with Hays dazzling back in the Majors to play a 21-game sample full of wall-slamming catches in center field. All he and the Orioles want is for him to stay there.
“The biggest thing was, they wanted me to have a healthy offseason,” said Hays, the team's No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline. “I gave my body time to relax, process everything that happened, the whirlwind year that it was.”
As opposed to spending the winter bulking up and adding weight, Hays spent it focusing on himself in other ways. He married his high school sweetheart, Samantha, and enjoyed a 10-day honeymoon in Thailand. Hays traveled to Chicago for the wedding of Cody Sedlock, the O's No. 17 prospect per MLB Pipeline. He began training again in December, focusing on sprint and agility drills more than heavy lifting.
Hays referred to his regimen as “getting as strong as I could at a lighter weight,” saying he weighs the same as he did in 2019, “only much stronger.” He compared it to prior offseasons he spent adding strength, only to succumb to various injuries -- hamstring, ankle and shoulder among them -- once the season began.
All told, Hays’ injuries limited him to 75 games in 2018 and 87 last season.
Both Hays and the Orioles hope that his adjusted regimen helps keep him on the field for the long haul. And for Hays, the first step is repeating the kind of camp he had last spring, before he was reassigned and subsequently fractured his left thumb. The difference is that this year, he figures to have a spot on the Opening Day roster if he can keep his body from betraying him.
“I want to come in and do exactly what I did last year,” Hays said. “I’m in great shape. I’m ready to go. My body feels healthy, rested. I’m just ready to see a pitcher on the mound again.”
Back in action
One of the pitchers eager to make an impression at Orioles camp is reliever Cody Carroll, who reported to Sarasota healthy after missing almost all of last season due to lower back issues. The 27-year-old right-hander won’t be limited this spring and will need to show he’s fully healed from microdiscectomy surgery.
“It feels like it’s been two or three years since I’ve done anything,” Carroll said. “It’s been long, but [camp] couldn’t come quick enough for me.”
Carroll, whom the O's acquired as part of their package for Zack Britton in 2018, debuted later that summer with 17 big league innings. He appeared in seven games last spring before experiencing lower back pain that forced him to begin the year on the injured list at Double-A Bowie. Carroll never appeared on the mound for the Baysox, as he underwent an operation to remove a piece of a disk in his lower back in July. He made two Gulf Coast League appearances a month later, but didn’t pitch again until the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 2.08 ERA in nine AFL games.
Carroll said he’d never experienced lower back problems previously, and will need to continue monitoring and managing that part of his body going forward.
“For me it was good to get out there [in the AFL], get a couple innings in,” Carroll said. “Missing a full season is tough, but I think getting those innings in was helpful. Showing that I’m healthy and can really do it, that was big for me.”
Meanwhile, Carroll maintained his spot on the 40-man roster, despite the Orioles’ significant shuffling. He probably needs a strong camp to reward the club’s patience.
From the trainers room
Two days after Pedro Severino was spotted wearing a surgical mask in Baltimore's clubhouse, manager Brandon Hyde revealed that the catcher has been held out of early workouts due to illness. Severino, 26, is expected to form a platoon behind the plate again with Chance Sisco. He is considered day to day.
The Orioles have announced their spring events and promotion schedule, crafted with an eye toward celebrating their 10th anniversary at Ed Smith Stadium. The headliner is the annual Sarasota Springfest, which is free to attend and will feature a Q&A session with O’s righty Hunter Harvey. Springfest is scheduled for Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. ET at Ed Smith Stadium.
The Orioles are also offering an extensive slate of unique promotions and giveaways throughout the spring season, including a Retro Swinging Bird T-shirt (Feb. 25) and Brooks Robinson bobblehead (Feb. 26). For a complete list of spring promotions and more information, visit Orioles.com/Spring.
Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.