DJ Stewart sat next to Cedric Mullins in the Orioles’ clubhouse yesterday, two guys who have to keep reminding their critics how it’s unwise to judge a book by its cover. Or a player by his measurements.
They’re on opposite ends of the size spectrum, with Mullins listed at 5 foot 8 and 175 pounds - some gamblers might take the under on his height - and Stewart built like a fullback at a listed 6 feet and 230 pounds.
As the media peeled away from Stewart’s locker yesterday, shortly after the Orioles announced that they had selected his contract from Triple-A Norfolk, I congratulated him on the promotion and asked for an opinion on Mullins.
What is Stewart’s impression of him?
“That he’s a player,” Stewart replied, a simple response that’s actually the ultimate compliment that someone can offer.
“People talk about his size all the time and they always try to say things that he can’t do, but he repeatedly shows you every single day that he can do it. And I think for me to watch Adam (Jones), the way that he’s kind of given him the reins and let him take over center field, it’s a cool thing to see. Adam’s a legend. He doesn’t have to be as nice as he is. For Adam, it shows that he thinks the same thing (about Mullins).
“This guy can play and he knows what he can do. We got drafted together, pretty much been at every single level together. I’ve gotten to see a front-row view of it all the time, so to see him at this level and us be here together, it’s really awesome.”
Stewart doesn’t always pass the eye test. Given his build, people can be quick to assume that he can’t run and therefore is a liability in the field. But he’s a barrel-chested first-round pick with 61 steals in 79 attempts in the minors and a .351 on-base percentage - and a slew of comparisons to Jack Cust after the draft.
He can relate to what Mullins has endured.
“Yeah, yeah, I definitely can,” Stewart said. “When everyone sees me kind of play my game and sees the whole picture, as opposed to just seeing statistics, you get an overall view of a complete player that we can be instead of just, ‘Oh, he’s hitting this, his power is this.’ Whereas, ‘Oh yeah, you see his height and weight, that guy can’t move.’ Watch me.
“Same with him. ‘He’s (5-8), he doesn’t have pop.’ Watch him hit. His ball jumps of the bat, as big as a 6-4 guy. Size, to me, doesn’t really matter. If you can play the game, you can play the game.”
Stewart doesn’t come across as angry or bitter. He smiles easily and laughs at the stereotypes and the responses.
He enjoyed the story of Mullins hitting the batters eye on the Camden Yards replica field in Sarasota during a B game against the Pirates. And how observers were stunned by the distance on the home run coming from someone who looks more point guard than power hitter.
“For me, we see that all the time,” Stewart said. “When people say we can’t do that, and to see the reaction on people’s faces when we do it, it’s really satisfying because we know. We know we can do it.
“I know what he can do, he knows what I can do, so when we do it, it’s really satisfying to see other people’s reactions to it.”
Manager Buck Showalter said Stewart will play tonight. Where he does it is unknown.
Jones returned to the lineup and right field last night and singled in his first two at-bats. Stewart could play left, right or serve as designated hitter.
Stewart has started 290 games in left in the minors, 92 in right and four in center.
I’ve heard the knocks on Stewart, but it makes total sense to play him in these final weeks. Get a head start on evaluating him. And if Jones sits again, it’s easier to explain if someone like Stewart is getting the at-bats and innings.
The Orioles needed to protect Stewart prior to the Rule 5 draft. He already was headed to the 40-man roster. They can’t be accused of unnecessarily giving up a spot yesterday, especially with players on the 10-day disabled list who easily could be transferred to the 60-day.