Orioles manager Brandon Hyde could be dropping hints about his opening day lineup with some of the recent versions posted for exhibition games. Though the usual warning is attached about never reading too much into a lineup.
That warning softens as the weeks melt in the Florida heat.
Hyde keeps finding ways to start Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays in the same outfield. Hays relocates to left or right, and the early narrative about a center field competition or platoon also turns into a puddle.
One of the unexpected twists in camp that can influence the roster or how Hyde uses it involves Mullins’ decision to ditch switch-hitting and bat exclusively from the left side.
It wasn’t brought to light until Hyde posted a lineup with Mullins’ name written in red ink, which distinguishes left-handed hitters.
Mistakes happen and I’ve noticed them in the past, but Hyde offered confirmation that day of Mullins’ new approach. He complimented fans who pointed it out after I told him about my Twitter feed blowing up - a slight exaggeration.
Mullins went 1-for-4 yesterday with a bloop RBI double and he’s slashing .282/.293/.513 with four doubles, a triple, a home run and seven RBIs after a hot start. He hit a two-run shot off Pirates left-hander Sam Howard Friday night in Bradenton.
The lefty-on-lefty crime would have gotten more play if Trey Mancini hadn’t hit his first home run since September 2019. Mancini deserved the attention.
Batting only from the left side was the logical move, but Mullins had to surrender to it. It wasn’t an easy concession.
His competitive nature and willingness to work harder pushed him to stick with it, despite multiple people in the organization suggesting that he stop. Gentle nudges toward the left.
Mullins is a career .251/.305/.394 hitter with six home runs against right-handed pitching and a .147/.250/.189 hitter with one home run versus lefties. His stint at the alternate camp site in Bowie last summer appeared to change the course of his career and he’s looking like a potential everyday player when the team leaves Sarasota.
The proof should come right away. The Red Sox are starting left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez on opening day at Fenway Park. Mullins could be atop the order or at the bottom, but he’s got a real shot at being in center field.
“To me, the No. 1 requirement for any hitter to be their best at any level is they have to have the belief regardless of most recent results, regardless of what anybody might tell them, they have to strongly believe that it’s something that they’re going to be good at and they can perform, so that’s requirement No. 1,” hitting coach Don Long said yesterday in his Zoom call.
“As far as Cedric goes, I think just moving to the left side exclusively, I think he has that, where I don’t think he necessarily he had that when he went up hitting right-handed. I think that’s a big factor. I think he believes that he can do it and so you can check that box. I’ve seen absolutely no give in a left-on-left situation, like he doesn’t want to stick his nose in there. I see him wanting to do that and I think it’s something he’s really going to be able to do, one, because he believes he can do it and with more reps I think he’s going to get better and better, and two, I see that because of the confidence from that side of the plate I see a willingness to stay in there and make it happen.
“I think he’s going to be able to do it.”