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Baltimore Orioles

Swing adjustment, healthy offseason put Orioles' Anthony Santander back in outfield mix

Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander has been here before, with a strong start last spring putting him in position to break camp with the major league team and deliver on some of the promise that led to the switch-hitting Venezuelan being a Rule 5 draft pick in 2017.

But with a three-hit day Sunday that included his first homer this spring and two doubles, Santander feels that a small swing adjustment from hitting coach Don Long and a healthy offseason have him in position to sustain it in 2019.

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"We've been working on a couple things with my swing so far, and we've been working really hard in the last few games about it," Santander said, via interpreter Ramón Alarcón. "This game is about adjustments, so every adjustment you can make is just going to put you in a better position to succeed."

The 2018 season left Santander plenty to learn from in terms of those adjustments. He had to stick on the major league roster for six weeks to exhaust his Rule 5 roster status from the previous year, thanks to arm injuries that kept him from playing most of 2017, and became the everyday right fielder with Mark Trumbo and Colby Rasmus injured.

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But he struggled badly at the plate and was batting .198 with a .547 OPS in May when he was optioned to Double-A Bowie, and didn't return even as the club turned to younger players in the outfield.

Now, Santander is part of a crowded outfield mix with top prospect Yusniel Diaz impressing as a non-roster invite in major league camp and Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini, Austin Hays, Joey Rickard, and DJ Stewart all vying for outfield time as well.

He's caught the eye of manager Brandon Hyde with some of his at-bats, especially the fourth-inning home run Sunday from the left side off right-hander Victor Alcantara. He doubled from both the left and right side Sunday as well, raising his spring line to .462/.500/.923 in seven games.

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"He's swinging the bat really well," Hyde said. "I was just talking to Don Long about him. They did some nice adjustments with him on his left-handed swing. It just seems like his barrel is in the zone a long time.

"He drove the ball out the other way, he's had a couple opposite-field doubles, but it's just his barrel stays in the zone forever, and he's allowing himself to really stay on the ball and stay through the ball. When he's given the opportunity, he's swinging the bat well. I'm really impressed with Tony. I like the competitiveness, his ABs, like the way he uses the whole field."

Santander said the adjustment was a small one designed to keep his hands back longer and allow him to stay behind the ball, which partially explains how he's staying in the zone longer.

The 24-year-old Santander said the willingness to allow for such changes has helped free him up so far this spring.

"I think being a new staff and getting to know us, [they're] just allowing us to play and giving us feedback on new things to just give it a try and see how it works," Santander said. "I think that's really beneficial. ... The new staff is allowing us to play, play the game, play aggressive. Every day, I'm working really hard to continue to improve. There's always an adjustment to make, and that's my goal, just to make the proper adjustment to help my team."

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Santander said health has also been a factor in his improvement.

"I think I came to this camp ready to play, ready to compete," Santander said. "My legs feel good, I feel healthy physically. My arm is ready to throw, so I think I came in in really good shape and ready to contribute."


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