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Orioles’ Anthony Santander returns to workouts with challenging timeline to prepare for Opening Day

Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander joined the team at Camden Yards on Tuesday and will participate in workouts for the first time, manager Brandon Hyde said, beginning a 10-day effort for the team to get one of its most productive bats on the field for Opening Day on July 24.

Just because the team now has depth options in an outfield that was shorthanded at the beginning of summer camp, however, doesn’t mean Hyde wants to spend too long without Santander on the major league roster.

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“I’d prefer to get him going, to be honest with you,” Hyde said. “Tony is a big part of our team, and he’s a middle of the order hitter for us. We’re going to try to get him ready as quickly as we possibly can.”

Santander, along with outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., are the two players from the initial camp roster of 44 players who were not present at any of the club’s workouts after reporting for COVID-19 intake testing. The team has declined to provide any information on their absences, citing player privacy and the possibility of false positive tests.

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The absence of those two, who represented half of the four outfielders brought to camp, meant that the team was shorthanded for the first week-plus. Utility players Stevie Wilkerson and Andrew Velazquez took some outfield reps, and the shortage was addressed when the team added Mason Williams, Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle to the camp roster last week.

Santander, though, had the most productive 2019 of all of them. He hit .261 with a .773 OPS and 20 home runs in 93 games, though he was much better than that for most of the season before he wore down in September.

Hyde said that the team would monitor him closely as he returns to action to make sure he’s healthy while getting all of the work he needs to in.

“We’re going to try our best,” he said. “We’re going to watch him on the field here a couple days. I talked to him this afternoon. I’m going to try to have him face as much live pitching as possible. I have concerns about soft-tissue stuff. We’ve got to get him on the bases. We need to get him reps in the outfield. I need to get him as many live at-bats as possible here in the next nine days or so.

“It’s really going to be depending on how he recovers daily and how physically healthy he is going into the 24th. It’s going to be a lot of communication between the training staff, strength staff, coaching staff and him on how he feels daily. We’ll put him through a light workout today, see how he feels tomorrow, and just kind of continues to ramp things up.”

Milone makes rotation case

Tommy Milone might have been the last entrant into the Orioles’ rotation race when he signed a week into spring training on a minor league contract. Perhaps that’s why he’s not letting himself believe his strong showing so far in summer camp guarantees him a spot with the starting pitchers come Opening Day.

“Until I’m officially told that I have a spot, I’ve got to assume that I’m still competing,” Milone said. “I think I feel I went out there and pitched pretty good last night. That’s one of the things I really can’t control, when they tell me or if they tell me.

“The only thing I can control is going out there and pitching, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do — try to leave little doubt in their mind as to me being in that rotation.”

Milone, who has pitched in two intrasquad games in addition to facing live hitters on the opening day of camp July 3, accomplished that goal of trying to leave little doubt by pitching five shutout innings in Monday’s intrasquad game as he continues to build up his arm for the coming season.

To this point, the Orioles have been coy about their starting pitching plans. Pitching coach Doug Brocail this weekend said Opening Day starter John Means, Alex Cobb, and Wade LeBlanc were in line to start the three exhibition games from July 19-21, which line them up for the first three regular season games in Boston later that week.

Manager Brandon Hyde has only committed to Means being in the rotation, with Cobb likely following him. Hyde has liked what he’s seen from free-agent signee Kohl Stewart in limited looks, and Asher Wojciechowski is also in the rotation mix.

Second site opens

The Orioles opened their secondary site at Double-A Bowie’s Prince George’s Stadium on Tuesday, with the following players working out there: catchers Taylor Davis and Adley Rutschman, right-handers Dean Kremer, Michael Baumann, Isaac Mattson, and Hector Velázquez, and left-hander Keegan Akin.

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Kremer was added to the player pool Tuesday morning, while the rest were at the Camden Yards site previously. Velázquez, who is on the 40-man roster, was optioned to the camp Tuesday.

Additionally, Richie Martin (wrist fracture) was placed on the 60-day injured list, thus removing him from the player pool.

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