Cedric Mullins will participate in the upcoming Orioles caravan, added to the list on Jan. 10, and report early to spring training in Sarasota before leaving camp to join Team USA at the World Baseball Classic.
The Orioles aren’t done trying to make other moves to set their opening day roster, but Mullins is certain to roam center field and sit atop the order.
What’s new to Mullins is ramping up for WBC competition while leaving behind most of his teammates. Reliever Dillon Tate also was chosen for Team USA.
“It’s going to be awesome. It’s a huge honor to be a part of this,” Mullins said this week on MLB Network Radio.
“The last one being back in 2017, so a decent amount of time has passed. COVID kind of got in the way of that, as well, so it’s awesome to be amongst this group. Not only being competitive out there, but you’re preparing for the season, as well. It’s definitely going to be an experience.”
One that takes him away from the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
“I don’t think I’m missing too much,” he said. “Those guys will be getting after it. I’ll be enjoying myself playing for my country. I don’t know how much more exciting that can get.”
Mullins relayed how he found out about the opportunity. How he initially thought he did something wrong until receiving the news.
“It definitely caught me off guard,” he said. “I got called into the office and I felt like I was going to the principal’s office. I was like, ‘What the heck is going on.’ They were like, ‘Hey, so Team USA just reached out,’ and I was like, ‘Oh snap.’ I think I said it out loud.
“I was just kind of thrown off by being in the heat of a playoff run for the season. They said, ‘It’s solely up to you if you want to join,’ and that was a no-hesitation decision. That was definitely a cool moment, for sure.”
The best for Mullins was staying in the wild card hunt until the last week of the season, with the Orioles posting their first winning record since 2016. They can’t sneak up on anyone this year. The same evaluators who predicted another 100-loss campaign view them as a team on the rise.
“I’m feeling really solid, really confident in these guys coming in,” Mullins said. “For some of them to get a taste of what it’s like to be in the bigs and now they have a solid approach going into the offseason, I’m expecting great things out of those guys. We were able to have a lot of camaraderie last year, so our expectations as a team are definitely going to be higher, and we want that playoff bid.”
Mullins followed his 30/30 season, All-Star Game honor and selection by the media as Most Valuable Oriole by batting .258/.318/.403 with 32 doubles, four triples, 16 home runs, 64 RBIs and 34 stolen bases that ranked second to Jorge Mateo’s 35 for the American League lead.
A year after finding positive results from ditching switch hitting, Mullins struggled against southpaws with a .209/.265/.313 line in 197 plate appearances. He told the network that he’s taken a “deep dive” into his left-on-left numbers and made them a priority in the offseason.
“I went from having success to kind of struggling,” he said, “and I know that was a credit to pitchers making their adjustments, and it’s just about me coming back and making those adjustments back at them.”
An interviewer projected 60 stolen bases for Mullins based on changes that include larger bases, limits on pickoff attempts and a pitch timer.
“I truly feel like the rules are going to kind of cater to my style of play,” Mullins replied. “Just a little faster pace, being able to put myself in more running situations early. It’s just a matter of making those adjustments the first couple weeks of having those rules implemented and having those discussions of how we approach utilizing those rules to our advantage, or whatever the case.
“It’s going to be interesting. It’s definitely going to be a small adjustment period, getting in the box by a certain time. I’ve already had a hypothetical in my head. I’m like, ‘Well, if I make a diving play for the third out in the deepest part of the field, am I going to make it in time for the first pitch?’ So, we’ll see what happens.”