The two biggest foolers in baseball tend to be spring training and September stats. What you see isn’t necessarily what you get outside the confines of a small sample size. Manager Buck Showalter has issued the warning on multiple occasions.
Not to keep picking on Jake Fox, but he was Babe Ruth in exhibition games. The media created an imaginary award in his honor.
The plays that Cedric Mullins kept making in center field were real and didn’t come with any warnings.
The diving catches on sinking liners were legitimate. Running down fly balls in the gaps were simply a continuation of his defensive work in the minors.
A tarp covers the infield. Mullins can handle the rest.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine because he’s very athletic,” said former Orioles center fielder Al Bumbry. “He can run, he can field, he can throw. The only adjustment he’ll have to make is positioning-wise, and of course Wayne (Kirby) is going to be there to help. And of course, reading the ball off the bat and getting a good jump.
“The ball gets on you pretty damn quick up here, so that will be the major adjustment for him in terms of how deep he can play and his ability to go back and come in on balls. But the hardest thing will just be reading the ball off the bat and the speed of the ball coming on you.”
Reliever Donnie Hart had a rough night on the mound, letting three inherited runners score and allowing three of his own in one-third of an inning, but he came through as a scout.
“That guy covers a ton of ground,” said Hart, Mullins’ teammate this summer at Triple-A Norfolk. “I mean, he’s fast, obviously. That’s, like, his biggest tool. I’ve seen him play center field maybe more than some of the guys in here. He covers a ton of ground.
“Switch-hitting outfielder, which is always a plus. It’s a premium having a guy that can swing from both sides of the plate.”
The Orioles brought over Mullins from minor league camp in March 2017 to fill out their roster for a B game against the Pirates. Mullins, who’s listed at a modest 5 foot 8, hit a ball off the batter’s eye in center field on the Camden Yards replica field. Kirby had his back to the field, but he heard the bat making contact, turned and yelled, “Whoa” - surprised by the power that Mullins was able to generate.
“He’s actually got some pretty good juice, too, for a guy his size,” Hart said. “There’s a little learning curve when he came up at first, but he settled in just fine. I’ve talked to him in the outfield before about knowing who he is and what he brings to the table, and try not to do more than what got him here and what’s going to keep him here.
“He knows that. He’s a smart kid. He’s a hard worker. He’s always out there. He posts up every day. I know he has a relationship with Adam (Jones) and I’m sure that’s huge for him, being able to learn from a guy who’s been in center field for 10-plus years and a long time with this organization. That’s probably good for him.
“I think the fans are going to enjoy watching him play the outfield, wherever it is. Whether it’s center, right, left. Any position in the outfield. He has that exciting factor about him, a guy who can cover that much ground and be that quick. It’s fun to watch.”
Hart expressed his confidence that Mullins is ready for the next level. Mullins backed him up last night by collecting hits and RBIs in his first two at-bats, drawing a walk and scoring twice.
“Obviously, everybody’s going to have their struggles when they come up here, and if he doesn’t, even better,” Hart said. “But I think the biggest thing is he’s going to bring something to the outfield that you don’t see very often. And that’s a guy who can get good reads on balls and cover a ton of ground. And I think the hitting, it’s going to come and it’s going to come as he gets more at-bats and the more time he spends up here.”
Jones has offered his support of Mullins through words and actions. The situation never reached the awkward stage. The captain has brought comfort to the rookie.
“That’s who he is,” Hart said.
“Adam is a smart, smart, smart man. He’s a hard worker, he knows pretty much anything you can think about in this game. He’s always one step ahead of everybody in terms of what’s going on in the game and stuff like that. Just like Cedric, you can watch Adam day in and day out and know he’s going to post up for you, and that’s a rarity. It’s hard to find guys who are like that.
“Adam’s a great guy, he’s a great individual. He’s an awesome teammate to have and he’s a good leader. I think it’s very telling of Adam’s personality to be that way and to understand what’s going on.”
Jones wanted the focus last night to stay on Mullins as reporters drifted toward him.
Asked about his first night in right field, Jones replied, “Talk to Mullins, he had a great game.”