Cedric Mullins’ status as one of the longest tenured players on the Orioles roster brings a responsibility that he embraces. Counseling the young prospects who could learn from his own experiences. Good and bad.
Mullins wrapped his arms around Kyle Stowers’ situation while they were at the spring training complex in Sarasota.
Stowers was trying to return from a shoulder injury, the inflammation and recovery period keeping him out of games with Triple-A Norfolk for more than a month. Mullins was immersed in a running progression after straining his right groin.
They had more in common than health.
Stowers broke camp with the Orioles, was optioned April 9 after four at-bats, returned to the club and was sent down again May 15 after a four-strikeout game against the Pirates. He was 2-for-30 with 12 strikeouts.
Mullins could relate. He was the starting center fielder on Opening Day 2019 after the Orioles let Adam Jones walk as a free agent, but he didn’t make it past April 21 before they optioned him. He went 6-for-64 with 14 strikeouts in 22 games, unable to hold onto the torch that Jones passed to him. Never thinking that it would burn him.
It got worse.
The Orioles demoted Mullins again after he batted .205/.272/.306 in 66 games with Norfolk. He landed at Double-A Bowie, a relatively close distance from Baltimore by mileage but a long way from a major league lineup.
What could have broken Mullins instead made him strong. He slashed .271/.341/.402 in 51 games, stayed with the Baysox for the Eastern League playoffs and kept raking, hitting for the cycle to advance them to the championship series.
Mullins homered off rehabbing Yankees reliever Dellin Betances in Game 4, but the Trenton Thunder won the title.
Back to post-pandemic baseball in 2021, Mullins made the All-Star team in the American League, won a Silver Slugger Award and finished ninth in Most Valuable Player voting. He also became the first player in franchise history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season.
“I would hope to be someone that anyone on the team could come to if they needed someone to hear something about what they’re feeling, whether that be on or off the field,” Mullins said yesterday. “It’s pretty important to me, just being, quote/unquote, one of the older guys now and just kind of molding myself to that role.
It felt a little weird for Mullins to call himself one of the older guys at age 28.
“That’s why I put it in quotes,” he said, laughing.
“But it’s cool. It means that I’m growing along with the game, and there’s always going to be guys coming through behind me, so, it’s pretty cool.”
Mullins had a nice talk with Stowers before they parted, with Mullins reinstated from the injured list after 11 plate appearances with Norfolk and Stowers joining the Florida Complex League Orioles, where he’s appeared in two games and homered yesterday.
“He had kind of asked me about my story a little bit, and I think that’s what helped him with his thought process a little bit,” Mullins said. “Just understanding that there’s a million different routes to be had in order to find your way and have success at the end of it.
“Just for him to hear the steps back that I had to take in order to become the player that I am today, it was pretty big for him.”
* MLB.com’s Jim Callis released his latest mock draft yesterday, and he had the Orioles selecting University of Florida pitcher Hurston Waldrep at No. 17.
Waldrep, a right-hander with a plus splitter who transferred from Southern Mississippi, was 10-3 with a 4.16 ERA and 1.397 WHIP in 19 starts. He struck out 156 batters and walked 57 in 101 2/3 innings.
His three-year totals include a 17-5 record with a 3.68 ERA, 1.284 WHIP and 312 strikeouts in 208 innings.
Waldrep was named second-team All-American this year while leading the Gators to the College World Series, where they lost to LSU in the finals. He started Game 2, a 24-4 win over the Tigers, and allowed three runs with six walks in 2 1/3 innings.
Callis also linked the Orioles to Florida prep shortstop Arjun Nimmala, currently projected to be selected 13th by the Cubs, Florida prep third baseman Aidan Miller (14th to Red Sox), Texas high school catcher Blake Mitchell (eighth to Royals), Virginia prep first baseman/pitcher Bryce Eldridge (23rd to Braves), and Florida Atlantic first baseman/outfielder Nolan Schanuel (21st to Cardinals).
* Manager Brandon Hyde used four pitchers last night, three fewer than he went through on Wednesday in a 10-inning loss to the Reds. Nick Vespi's ability to give the club three scoreless innings saved the 'pen.
The Orioles have deployed at least six pitchers in a game 18 times this season, second in the majors to the Reds’ 19, per STATS. The teams were tied heading into last night.
* The Orioles have gone 38-22 against the American League. They’ve finished a season with a winning percentage of .600 or higher versus the AL only once, in 1997, since interleague play was introduced.
The wire-to-wire team was 90-57.
The Orioles are 6-21 against the Twins since 2018, which ties for the second-worst record for any team against an opponent in its own league during that span, per STATS. The Tigers are 4-24 against the Athletics, and the Pirates are 6-21 against the Braves.
The Twins have won 12 of 13 against the Orioles at Target Field.
* Before last night, the Orioles won 11 of 12 games when stealing multiple bases. They were 14-9 with one steal and 23-21 with none.
They fell behind early, struggled to put anyone on base and didn’t attempt a steal, making them 23-22 in those games.
Going 11-1 gives the Orioles a .917 winning percentage that ranks first in the American League and second in the majors behind the Rockies. However, Colorado is only 5-0.
The Marlins are 13-2 (.867).