Orioles option Mullins and bring back Wilkerson

The slump that has enveloped center fielder Cedric Mullins for the first four weeks of the season finally pulled him off the Orioles’ roster and down to the minors.

Mullins was optioned today to Triple-A Norfolk and the Orioles selected the contract of utility player Stevie Wilkerson. Pitcher Josh Lucas was designated for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster.

The range and speed that Mullins provides in center couldn’t save him from a demotion.

Mullins has collected only six hits in 64 at-bats for an .094 average. He has a .337 OPS in 22 games and 74 plate appearances.

An 0-for-20 streak ended with a single in the fourth inning in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader. He also was 1-for-33.

Since registering two triples on April 8, Mullins has gone 2-for-40 while scuffling from both sides of the plate and the Orioles decided he could use a reset.

mullins-after-strikeout-gray-sidebar.jpgThe cold streak didn’t suddenly come upon Mullins. He slashed .151/.262/.377 in 17 exhibition games, but his success in the minors and the small sample size after debuting in the majors in August led to his inclusion on the opening day roster.

Mullins replaced Adam Jones in center field on Aug. 10 and he went 3-for-4 with two doubles. He slashed .235/.312/.359 in 45 games.

The Orioles designated Wilkerson for assignment on March 23 after claiming catcher Pedro Severino off waivers from the Nationals and outrighted him to Norfolk, where he 18-for-57 (.316) with two home runs and 10 RBIs. He made his first two career appearances in center field.

Wilkerson has played second base, shortstop and third base with the Orioles.

Joey Rickard is likely to get most of the starts in center field, with Wilkerson able to back him up. Austin Hays eventually could become the regular center fielder, but he’s just starting a hitting progression in Sarasota after spraining his left thumb.

Lucas was optioned between games of Saturday’s doubleheader to make room for starter Alex Cobb. The 40-man roster was full, leading to his removal this afternoon.

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