Being shut out for the fourth time this season was the least of the Orioles’ worries today as they filed into the clubhouse.
Center fielder Cedric Mullins pulled up short of first base in the eighth inning while trying to beat out a ground ball to shortstop, and he’s been diagnosed with a strain in his right abductor/groin area.
Mullins is undergoing further testing, but he’s likely to go on the 10-day injured list.
“We’re hoping for great news on that, but you never know,” manager Brandon Hyde said following a 5-0 loss to the Guardians at Camden Yards.
Mullins walked twice today and was thrown out trying to steal in the first inning. He’s batting .263/.356/.479 in 53 games with 12 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 39 RBIs, 28 walks and 13 steals in 15 attempts. His .835 OPS ranks second on the club behind Austin Hays’ .867.
He also became the seventh player in team history on May 12 to hit for the cycle. And he’s again playing Gold Glove defense in center.
The magnitude of Mullins’ loss to a contending team can’t be overstated.
“It’s the last thing you want to see,” Hyde said. “He’s a huge part of our team, and if we’re going to lose him for a little while, we’ll see, but if we have to, then other guys step up.
“This is part of the game. We’ve been pretty fortunate so far this year, and these things happen.”
Ryan McKenna could get a bulk of the starts in center field if Mullins is on the IL for the first time since his minor league days.
“He’s been a huge part of our team, obviously,” McKenna said. “You hate to see somebody pull up like that, and I assume it’s something with his leg. I know he’s getting it taken care of and he’ll be back as soon as he can.”
McKenna moved to center field in the ninth inning, with Terrin Vavra entering the game in right. Austin Hays also can play center in Mullins’ absence, and shortstop Jorge Mateo has experience at the position.
“You hate to see anybody go down,” McKenna said. “Cedric is one of the biggest pieces of this team, one of the biggest drivers of us winning this year. It’s going to be a loss for our team, but I prepare the same way every game I can, so if I’m going to be in the lineup more, I’ll be ready and prepared to do so.”
The Orioles have an open spot on the 40-man roster and could select outfielder Daz Cameron’s contract from Triple-A Norfolk if Mullins goes on the injured list. Cameron, the son of former major league outfielder Mike Cameron, is batting .267/.359/.482 with eight doubles, seven home runs and 26 RBIs in 38 games with the Tides.
Outfielders Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers are both on the seven-day injured list with the Tides.
The other option would be an infielder, and banking on the roster’s versatility.
The Orioles didn’t have an outfielder on the injured list last season.
Tyler Wells didn’t want to speculate on the severity of Mullins’ injury, “but if lose him, it’s going to be a blow,” he said.
“At the same time, too, I think we have a lot of resilient guys in here who will step up for him, and I think we’ll kind of continue to play it out. I think Ced’s going to be fine.”
The Orioles have lost three of their last four games and are 34-20. Rookie left-hander Logan Allen blanked them on three hits with 10 strikeouts in seven innings for his second career win.
“I thought he was really good,,” Hyde said. “I watched his last start against Chicago and saw he had really good stuff, but in person, it’s a ton of sneaky life to his fastball. The tempo he works with. Everything gets on hitters quickly and he’s got good stuff. Got good secondary stuff, also. He works ahead in the count, and he was attacking us from pitch one and we just had a tough time squaring the ball up against him.”
Wells held Cleveland to one run and four hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in six innings. Will Brennan led off the fifth with a double, moved to third base on a balk and scored on Cam Gallagher’s fly ball.
“I thought Tyler did a great job,” Hyde said. “Just the leadoff double and the balk on an inside move, which is uncharacteristic. I thought he had everything going.”
Said Wells: “I thought there were a lot of really good things to take away from it. I was happy with the way I was commanding the fastball, commanding the changeup, cutter. There were a couple mistakes on my part, ultimately ended up them scoring. I would probably say my last two outings, every one that has scored has been my fault.
“The balk is something that shouldn’t have happened. I would say that, overall, I feel like I’m pitching really well and I’m just continuing to try to improve on that each and every time.”