Elias and Hyde talk about Mullins' injury and Hicks' arrival (plus lineups)

The Orioles are hopeful that Cedric Mullins’ absence from the team will be measured in weeks instead of months. They’ll grip that optimism with both hands and also keep their fingers crossed.

Mullins was placed on the 10-day injured list after he slowed before reaching first base yesterday in the eighth inning and limped off the field with assistant athletic trainer Mark Shires. He’s been diagnosed with a strained right groin muscle.

Manager Brandon Hyde was relieved to learn that Mullins could return ahead of a lengthy absence.

“It’s what I was hoping for, honestly, in that, you never know how bad those can be and it sounds like we’re getting some positive news in it being weeks and not months,” Hyde said.

“When you see a guy pull up like that, your first instinct is, not good, but because he pulled up, it seems like he helped himself. He didn’t get a hit out of it. He sacrificed maybe a hit for some weeks. We’re going to do everything we can to get him back as soon as possible. We’ll see how it goes, but I think the news was positive, at least for how bad it looked.”

Mullins wasn’t at his locker today during media access, but Hyde said the center fielder appeared to be “down” after the game. This is Mullins’ first trip to the injured list since playing in the minors.

“Today he seemed like in much better spirits than before,” Hyde said. “I think he’s encouraged by it not being as long as it could be.”

The corresponding move for Mullins was signing switch-hitting outfielder Aaron Hicks to a major league deal and getting him to Baltimore. Hicks took batting practice around 5 p.m. but isn’t in the lineup.

Austin Hays is in center and Adam Frazier is leading off.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said the club won’t put a concrete timeline on Mullins' return, given that the injury happened just 24 hours ago. He’s also hesitant to offer a grade on the strain, saying we could “technically call it a 2, but I don’t think that it’s as hard and fast as that might sound. I don’t want to go with some textbook timeline that might be out there for one of those.”

“Obviously, we look forward to getting him back as soon as possible, as one of the best center fielders in baseball right now and a huge part of our team,” Elias said. “Missing him is going to be tough, and part of that is why we were so aggressive in getting Aaron Hicks in here as soon as possible. I think that he provides us another option, and we’ve got a ballpark where we basically have two large center field-type positions to cover. We’re big believers in having options for every position from the left side of the plate and the right side of the plate. Aaron’s a switch-hitter, so he does both of those things.”

Hicks provides a counter to right-handed hitters Hays and Ryan McKenna in center field. Hyde said shortstop Jorge Mateo, also a right-handed bat, is “an option” in center.

Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers might have expanded the field of candidates, but they’re on the seven-day injured list at Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles passed on right-handed hitting Daz Cameron, keeping him with the Tides.

Elias viewed Hicks as a good fit given the circumstances.

“I know he’s kind of excited to be joining this fun team right now after being released just a couple days ago, so I’m hopeful that it works out,” Elias said. “I think he’s, hopefully, going to be the right guy at the right time to help us out from here.”

Said Hyde: “It’s a guy we talk about as a plus defender in the outfield. The guy can really throw. He’s got experience in three spots in the outfield. In this park, too, we really need two center fielders, and Aaron’s got a lot of center field experience. He’s played left field here before, also. Brings the defensive aspect, and then switch-hitting is big for us and gives us more versatility from a right-left standpoint. We’re excited to have him.”

The Orioles reached out to Hicks’ camp prior to Mullins’ injury.

“Obviously, when you’re doing it then it’s a little bit more from a depth mindset,” Elias said. “When the injury happened yesterday, it totally accelerated the focus from our standpoint.”

Asked whether a healthy Norfolk roster might have influenced how the Orioles replaced Mullins, Elias said, “We do have a couple of left-handed-hitting guys that can play left here, can play center here, in Triple-A that happen to be hurt right now, so yeah, it’s definitely something that you look at, but we want to get Cedric healthy, we want to get those guys healthy. It’s a long season. This stuff happens.”

The Orioles still are measuring Cowser’s return from a left quad strain in days rather than weeks, but he isn’t necessarily on the brink of a major league debut.

“I’ve got to focus on getting him back up and running first, to speak a little bit more precisely,” Elias said. “I think we need to get him out and healthy. We need to make sure he’s back in the flow of game play in Triple-A. We’ll just take it all as it comes. But certainly he was building a case toward promotion consideration prior to his injury and prior to Cedric’s injury, and we’ll just see where we’re at.

“Brandon says the same thing. I stress it all the time. I was sitting here two days ago with no idea that Aaron Hicks would be in our clubhouse. Stuff happens every couple days, and tough for me to whip out the crystal ball in this business.”

Hicks is a career .222/.329/.370 hitter against right-handers and a .247/.327/.415 hitter versus left-handers. He slashed .209/.333/.311 against right-handers in 2022 and was 8-for-51 (.157) before the Yankees released him.

The Orioles will see how center field evolves rather than go with a set plan, taking it “day to day,” Hyde said, with matchups the usual factor. The same is true of the leadoff spot, which Mullins always occupied against right-handers and at times versus lefties.

“I think that Ryan McKenna has been playing really good defense and he’s been extremely productive against left-handed pitching, so I imagine that we’ll continue to lean into that,” Elias said. “But we needed another outfielder on this team, I think, from the left side after Cedric went down. And one of the nice things with Aaron is he hits right-handed, too. But we’ll just have to see how that shakes out. I know he’s going to play.”

Hicks’ offensive production has been in decline, making him a target for angry fans in the Bronx. He was batting .188/.263/.261 this season in 28 games, but the Orioles are exposing him to their hitting program and seeing whether he improves.

“We have stuff that we look at from a scouting and evaluation perspective that, as I’ve said before, is very different from just looking at the back of a baseball card, and we hope that we get a bounce back from anyone that we bring in,” Elias said. “It doesn’t always work, but you look at Adam Frazier and Kyle Gibson, they didn’t have their best years last year, too, but we saw stuff that we thought meant that they might play well here in the future, and so far they’ve really helped us out.

“You’re not going to get a great outcome on everything, but we see stuff with Aaron Hicks that we like, that we feel is a good fit for us, and I hope this is a shot in the arm for him. I hope he helps us win some games.”

Hicks doesn’t arrive as a duplicate of Mullins. The 2021 All-Star isn’t replaced that easily. The Orioles will lean on other veterans, the core group, as well as the depth on their roster.

“I think the good news for us is we’ve got other good players,” Elias said. “I think it would be completely unrealistic to expect to go all year without one of our star players going down for a stretch. Thankfully, this is a muscular injury. It’s not of any extra-normal severity. It’s nothing surgically or anything like that. He’s just got to heal up. I hope it’s not too long and he should be playing the vast majority of the rest of the season for us. But we’ve got other good guys here that, hopefully, they pick us up.”

The Orioles hold the third-best record in baseball but have lost three of their last four games. And now they must proceed, for however long, without one of their most important players.

"He's a guy, I don't know if you can replace what he brings to the table," Hays said. "He's a leader, every facet of the game, so it's going to be a group effort to really come together and just play as a whole to try to do what we can to fill that void. But it's a really tough loss for us."

For the Orioles
Adam Frazier 2B
Adley Rutschman C
Anthony Santander RF
Austin Hays CF
Gunnar Henderson DH
Ryan Mountcastle 1B
Ramón Urías 3B
Terrin Vavra LF
Jorge Mateo SS

Kyle Gibson RHP

For the Guardians
Steven Kwan LF
Amed Rosario SS
José Ramírez 3B
Josh Naylor 1B
Josh Bell DH
Andrés Giménez 2B
Will Brennan RF
Mike Zunino C
Myles Straw CF

Cal Quantrill RHP

The Orioles promoted catcher Creed Willems and outfielder Douglas Hodo III from Single-A Delmarva to High-A Aberdeen. Reliever Nick Richmond and outfielder Hudson Haskin moved up to Double-A Bowie.

Bowie infielder Toby Welk was assigned to Delmarva on an injury-rehab assignment.

Former Orioles outfielder Mike Young has died. He was 63.

Young spent the first six of his eight major league seasons with the Orioles and batted .253/.341/.431 in 520 games. He had 22 doubles, 28 home runs, 81 RBIs and an .861 OPS in 139 games in 1985.

He placed fifth in Rookie of the Year voting in the American League in 1984.

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