Hyde on Mullins' slump, Mateo's defense, Kimbrel's role and more (tonight's game postponed)

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde remains confident that Cedric Mullins will bust out of his slump and contribute more than center field defense.

Mullins is in the lineup again tonight and batting eighth against Blue Jays right-hander Chris Bassitt.

Hyde said again today that Mullins’ glove is too valuable to keep away from the field, no matter what’s happening with him at the plate. He has five hits in his last 57 at-bats.

“I gave him the weekend off and I played him yesterday,” Hyde said. “I’d like for him to get going offensively and when Ced’s being Ced, our lineup completely changes. I know his process is good, I know he’s working the right way. He’s out here hitting early yesterday on the field. I thought the work was really good. I’m hoping that he can get going. But the defense is great. That is definitely a big plus.

“He can impact our lineup when he’s hitting.”

Hyde sees a player who needs to get back in sync. Mullins' health is fine, unlike last season, when he went on the injured list twice.

“I think he was battling some physical stuff last year in September. I don’t think that’s the case this time around,” Hyde said.

“This is just a little bit mechanics. This is in between the fastball and the off-speed, fouling back strikes that he should hit or normally has put in play hard. He’s kind of fouling straight back right now or popping up. So it’s a little bit more of a mechanical confidence issue, but we’ve all seen when Ced’s going well, what that looks like, and I want to believe he’s not that far away from that.”

* Jorge Mateo makes his 18th start at second base, settling into a more regular position rather than working in a super-utility role.

Mateo was outstanding again last night with multiple highlight-reel gems, including sprawling stops and double plays turned with shortstop Gunnar Henderson.

“I’m not surprised at all, especially after just watching the last few years,” Hyde said. “He’s a guy who came up and played everywhere, all over the field. Played the outfield with San Diego. Been everywhere with us and played a Gold Glove shortstop a couple years ago. Saw right away in spring training when we started playing him more at second base that it was going to be elite defense at second base, also. He’s played incredibly well.”

The pitching staff is the beneficiary of having two plus-defensive shortstops in the middle of the field. Mateo won a Fielding Bible Award in 2022. Henderson was handed the full-time job this year and is operating at an extremely high level.

The range impresses around the infield, with Ramón Urías a recipient of a Gold Glove at third base in 2022 and Jordan Westburg above-average at second and third after being drafted as a shortstop.

“This is special,” Hyde said. “When it’s Gunnar and Mateo up the middle, and Westburg’s a really, really good second baseman, also, and he’s playing a really good third base for us. Urías over there, he’s won a Gold Glove before. But Gunnar has really taken the next step in the middle of the field defensively, which is not only making the routine play, but he’s making the tough play look easy a lot of nights.

“You saw the play he made a couple days ago, two plays, with that fly ball catch, the athleticism with that, and then the backhand play with the arm strength. He’s just taking his defense to another level.”

* Craig Kimbrel has turned in three consecutive scoreless outings since being removed from the closer’s role, twice pitching in the seventh and once in the 11th.

At what point is Kimbrel eased back into save situations?

“We’ll see,” Hyde said. “Anytime.”

* The unsettled closer situation and slumping outfielders aren’t knocking the Orioles out of first place. They lead the Yankees by percentage points with the best record in the American League at 26-14. They haven’t lost more than two straight games.

“This is professional sports and a major league baseball team and there’s going to be things that aren’t going to go smoothly for six months,” Hyde said. “Things are going to happen. You’re going to have adversity, you’re going to have guys have ups and downs, you’re going have periods of struggles, you’re going to have periods of success. There’s going to be 4 ½ more months of it. But how consistent we’ve been so far, I’m really, really happy with. The defense we’ve played, I’m ecstatic about our pitching, what our rotation has done. I think our bullpen has done a great job.

“Like last year and the year before, we play a ton of close games and we’re winning more times than not. And I think we have the ability to improve, also, and get better. So, up to this point I’m really happy with how this season’s gone.”

Meanwhile, the tarp remains on the field but the rain has let up. The Orioles are checking the radar and hoping to play tonight, especially with Wednesday afternoon's forecast that calls for more rain.

The teams have a mutual off-day Thursday.

For the Blue Jays

Davis Schneider 2B
Daulton Varsho LF
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 1B
Bo Bichette SS
Danny Jansen C
Daniel Vogelbach DH
Cavan Biggio RF
Ernie Clement 3B
Kevin Kiermaier CF

Chris Bassitt RHP

Update: Tonight's game has been postponed and will be made up as part of a traditional, single-admission doubleheader on Monday, July 29. The first game will begin at 3:05 p.m.

Tickets dated for July 29 will be valid for both games of the doubleheader.

Kyle Bradish is pushed back to Wednesday afternoon.

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