The Orioles announced several roster cuts Sunday, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com was among those to cover. Outfielder Austin Hays, who looked like a strong contender for a season-opening starting role, is the most notable player returning to the minors. General manager Mike Elias insisted service time didn’t factor into the decision, suggesting it’s irrelevant in Hays’ case because he already debuted in 2017, Kubatko tweets. Based on his spring, in which he put together a video game-like .351/.385/.892 line with five home runs in 37 at-bats, Hays deserved a roster spot in Baltimore. The promising prospect is coming off an injury-shortened season in which he posted underwhelming minor league numbers across 327 plate appearances, however. Per Kubatko, Hays and the Orioles believe there’s more for him to work on at the Triple-A level, where he hasn’t yet played. “I still haven’t played too many games in the minor leagues,” Hays said. “I haven’t had too many at-bats. I missed almost a whole year last year due to injuries, so there’s some time I need to make up.”
More from the East Coast…
- The lower back problems that have shelved Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks this month will also sideline him for the team’s season-opening series, ESPN’s Coley Harvey reports. Hicks informed Harvey he underwent a second cortisone shot Sunday, though the 29-year-old is optimistic he’ll return at the outset of April. Without Hicks, it’s likely both Luke Voit and Greg Bird – who have been vying for the starting job at first base – will make New York’s roster, observes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, who notes the team will have to choose between Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade as its fourth outfielder. Regardless, the Yankees are left to hope Hicks’ injury doesn’t turn into an ongoing issue, especially after they inked him to a seven-year, $70MM extension last month.
- Braves manager Brian Snitker expects relievers A.J. Minter (shoulder) and Darren O’Day (forearm) to open 2019 on the injured list, Mark Bowman of MLB.com relays. Minter’s absence could prove especially detrimental, given that the lefty has thrived since debuting in 2017 and figured to begin the season sharing closer duties with Arodys Vizcaino. O’Day hasn’t yet pitched since last June, nor has he debuted with the Braves, who acquired him from Baltimore in July while he was shelved with a season-ending hamstring injury. The absences of Minter and O’Day may make Atlanta an even better fit for free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel, but to this point, it doesn’t seem as if the club has seriously pursued its former star.
- Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has developed an affinity for right-hander Anibal Sanchez over the past several years, as Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com explains. Despite that, the Braves didn’t re-sign Sanchez this past offseason after he experienced a career renaissance in their uniform last year. Thanks in part to their collection of young, major league-ready starters, the Braves were hesitant to ink Sanchez to a multiyear guarantee over the winter, Anthopoulos revealed, thereby paving the way for his exit. The 35-year-old ended up accepting division-rival Washington’s two-year, $19MM offer. “Obviously, you never want to see a division rival get better, but I’m so fond of him that I’m really happy for him,” said Anthopoulos, whose club benefited from Sanchez’s presence in 2018 after signing him for just $1MM in late March.