TORONTO — Outfielder Anthony Santander and left-hander Keegan Akin were placed on the restricted list Monday and are not with the Orioles on their trip to Toronto to face the Blue Jays in a four-game series.
Due to Canadian federal policy, players who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine are unable to enter the country and play games against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Akin and Santander declined to indicate whether they had been vaccinated last season. Both missed time in 2021 while on the COVID-specific injured list, though neither the team nor the players gave an exact cause for the moves, which required a positive test.
A day after adding them to the taxi squad, Baltimore selected outfielder Kyle Stowers and right-hander Rico Garcia from Triple-A Norfolk as substitute players. Stowers, a 24-year-old outfielder who has yet to make his major league debut, is ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the Orioles’ pipeline.
“This is something that teams are going through when they come up here,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’re excited to give Kyle and Rico the opportunity to be with us, at least for this series, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Hyde said there weren’t any staff members or coaches unable to make the trip to Toronto. Players on the restricted list don’t receive pay for the games they missed and don’t earn service time.
Santander homered in Sunday’s 10-7 win against the Royals and is an everyday corner outfielder for Baltimore. Without him in the lineup, the Orioles have several options, including Stowers. Hyde could also use Ryan McKenna or Trey Mancini in the outfield, as well as utility player Richie Martin.
Santander is hitting .238 but is leading the Orioles with 11 homers and is second with 33 RBIs. As a switch hitter, he’s been an especially important piece for a team that lacks left-handed bats.
“It’s a middle-of-the-order bat,” Hyde said. “He swung the bat good in Kansas City. But this is what it is right now.”
Adding Stowers brings a left-handed bat to the order, which helps against Monday night’s starter right-hander Alek Manoah. Stowers said his mom, his fiancée and his fiancée’s parents made the trip for his debut.
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“It’s awesome,” Stowers said. “It’s a dream come true for sure, and everybody’s been super great.”
Akin has carved out a role as a long reliever, although he allowed three solo homers in his 2 1/3 innings Sunday. Before that barrage from the Royals, Akin had given up just eight runs in 35 2/3 innings this season.
The Orioles added right-handers Mike Baumann and Garcia to the taxi squad Sunday, and either could help cover innings in place of Akin over the series. Garcia will have the opportunity first after a rapid rise through High-A, Double-A and Triple-A this year.
“Coming off Tommy John, saw him throw a few bullpens in spring training,” Hyde said. “Off to a really good start this year, kind of climb the ladder. ... Traditionally been a strike-thrower. He’s shown really good stuff in Norfolk.”
When a player is added to the restricted list, teams can replace them with a player on or off the 40-man roster — allowing Stowers and Garcia to be options. Catcher Anthony Bemboom, who was designated for assignment and outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk after he cleared waivers, also joined the Orioles as part of the taxi squad.
Once Akin and Santander are cleared to be removed from the restricted list, any players who replaced them do not need to clear waivers again to be sent back to the minors, regardless of whether they’re on the 40-man roster.