Not only has Orioles hitting coach Don Long noticed, along with everyone else, the spike in offensive production from center fielder Cedric Mullins, he’s also enjoyed the changes that aren’t evident in box scores.
“I was really proud of him last year for his personality emerging,” Long said yesterday on his Zoom call with the media.
“The first year that he was here, kind of getting to know him, he was fairly quiet. He’s not a real boisterous guy anyway, but you could see his personality and who he really was emerging last year, and I think you see that this year, as well.”
Mullins made the decision to abandon switch-hitting and entered last night’s game in Oakland 16-for-37 against left-handed pitching.
“He’s obviously performed well. He’s been very consistent with what he’s trying to do at home plate, very consistent with his work,” Long said.
“I really think that, because he was the one that said, ‘I just want to hit left-handed,’ and he arrived at that decision after the end of the season last year and he actually went to work on it, I think his confidence level is very high. And I think a big part of that was him being the one to initiate it rather than us telling him, ‘We think you need to do this.’
“So he’s grabbed a hold of that and he’s really run with it and he’s done a fantastic job. I’m very excited about him and what he’s been able to do.”
* The Orioles intended to carry four catchers on the roster at Triple-A Norfolk, which I heard a while ago, but Nick Ciuffo’s injury reduced the number to three.
Ciuffo was hit by a pitch a few weeks ago and suffered a broken bone in his right hand. The good news is it didn’t require surgery, but he won’t be on the Tides’ opening day roster.
Austin Wynns, Taylor Davis and Brett Cumberland will be together at Triple-A. Having four catchers is a bit unusual, but made more sense with one joining the major league club’s taxi squad for road games.
Wynns is on the West Coast, for example.
The arrangement really is a test for Cumberland, 25, who’s never played above Double-A.
The Orioles acquired Cumberland from the Braves in the Kevin Gausman/Darren O’Day trade at the 2018 deadline and assigned him to the Bowie Baysox. He’s hit .243/.376/.406 in four minor league seasons and worked to improve his defense.
The Triple-A roster holds 33 players this year, but only 28 are active for games to allow for taxi squad losses.
* Infielder Joey Ortiz has been assigned to the Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds, who moved up from short-season status.
The Orioles drafted Ortiz in the fourth round in 2019 out of New Mexico State University. He started 55 games at shortstop with Aberdeen in 2019, when the team played in the New York-Penn League, and batted .241/.345/.267 in 228 plate appearances.
There are no box scores floating around from the minor league spring training games, but Ortiz apparently kept hitting down in Florida.
One person who saw him remarked that “he’s been really good this spring.”
* Most of the Orioles’ affiliates will employ five-man rotations, but with some piggybacking in order to carry more starters.
“Especially at the lower levels, but even in Double-A,” said director of player development Matt Blood. “If you’re going to a low-A game or a high-A game, it’s likely you’ll see tandem starters. The Double-A rotation is a little more veteran and built up, but they’re still going to have some tandem going on, as well.”
The minor league season begins on Tuesday. References to alternate camp sites will be muted.
“Very happy,” Blood said. “Everyone is just excited to go play. The depth and the talent in our system has been dramatically improved, like, over the last 18 months and we haven’t gotten to see these guys play, and now this is going to be a lot of fun to see these guys compete. Our staffs get to work with them. We’re all really excited about it.”