CLEVELAND — Orioles manager Buck Showalter handed breakout prospect Austin Hays his first start in the majors on Saturday — he batted ninth and played right field in the visitors' foisted attempt to break Cleveland's 16-game winning streak.
Though Hays, who grounded out to shortstop in his first major league at-bat coming off the bench Thursday, grounded out twice on Saturday, Showalter commended a difficult play he made on a wind-blown fly ball in right field in the third inning.
"It's early in the process," Showalter said. "I think he's handled himself well. I'll tell you, the first fly ball he's got out there was tough. That first ball was probably a home run, blows back. There's a lot of adjustment to be made on that with the sun. That's a difficult play. It may look routine to people. That was good to see. Made a really good throw to second base [on Carlos Santana's double in the fourth inning]. Made it close."
Hays was called up Tuesday to give the team another right-handed-hitting outfield option against left-handed pitching.
Indians starter Josh Tomlin is a right-hander who has had more success against same-side batters this season, though that's been the opposite case in the past.
"I was hoping — we had three left-handed starters earlier [this week] and he didn't get here until the last one, and he traveled that day," Showalter said. "Tomlin is a reverse-split guy. Hasn't been that near as much this year though. I'm trying to pick a spot for him to get out there. Today is his day. We've gotten [Anthony] Santander a start. We'll probably get [Chance] Sisco one. It's what we have to do. It's his time."
The 22-year-old Hays said he wasn't tipped off to the possibility of a start before the game, but had been preparing himself for that chance.
"I knew there was a possibility of me being in the lineup under any circumstances," he said. "It's not really surprising."
In the meantime, Hays has used his time on the bench to soak in major league life and the routines of the Orioles stars in preparation for this moment.
"It's great just getting to experience a big league locker room, see how the guys go about their business and how much the game means to them, especially in the situation the team is in right now in a playoff run," Hays said. "It's been a lot of fun. It's awesome."
A finalist for Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year, Hays hit .329 with a .958 OPS, 32 home runs and 32 doubles between Double-A Bowie and High-A Frederick this year.
Given the Chance
Sisco, who began the year as the Orioles' top prospect, got his first big league at-bat late Friday, striking out on six pitches in the eighth inning against reliever Bryan Shaw.
"I was going up there to be ready for the heater," Sisco said. "I knew what he was throwing, he's a cutter guy. Just looking for a pitch up in the zone and trying to have a good at-bat. We're down by five at that point, so just trying to have a good at-bat and try and find any way possible on base."
Sisco, a lifelong starter in the minors, said he's been working on developing an in-game routine as he gets used to life off the bench. But he's also using that time to learn about the game, trying to sit next to catcher Caleb Joseph in the dugout.
"We just talk about pitch sequences and talk about the batters and go over different things like that," Sisco said. "But other than that, the starting pitchers — whoever is around; everyone here, I can learn something from them."
Tillman's short test
Recently moved back to the bullpen, right-hander Chris Tillman pitched to just one batter for the final out of the eighth inning Friday. Showalter typically likes to get a traditional starter a fresh inning of relief, but had plenty of reasons not to do so with Tillman.
"Chris had been four days [since he last pitched] and we didn't have anybody else, and we had wanted to get him out there, and he had had 20 minutes to get loose," Showalter said. "I think it's good for him, in a way. I'll tell you, the last time he pitched, he felt pretty good the next day. I'll be curious to see how he is with the short turnaround. I had four guys yesterday I couldn't use, and I didn't want to overuse [Richard] Bleier and not have him available today, because the next two hitters could have been 20 pitches."