Cedric Mullins on scrapping switch-hitting (O’s lose 4-2)

It was a productive day for Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins. Now hitting left-handed only, he got three at-bats versus southpaws today and produced a triple and an RBI single.

But the Orioles are still looking for their first win of spring training. The Yankees scored three runs in the third to break a 1-1 tie and beat the Orioles 4-2 at Ed Smith Stadium in a seven-inning game.

The Orioles (0-2-1) will play on the road against Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon with Wade LeBlanc getting the start.

Mullins led off the home first with a triple to center against New York lefty Jordan Montgomery, a pitcher who has allowed a career average of .195 against lefty batters. Mullins grounded out in the second against Montgomery and then singled in a run against lefty Tyler Lyons in the fourth to pull Baltimore within 4-2.

Mullins said former O’s skipper Buck Showalter once talked to him about scrapping switch-hitting and this was the year he finally made the move.

Mullins-Swings-White-Spring-Sidebar.jpg“The decision was mainly based off the numbers I was putting up throughout the minors and the time in the big leagues,” said Mullins. “That is something I brought up to (Brandon) Hyde and (Mike) Elias over the course of a few years, and I fully committed to it during this offseason. Kept in contact with them telling them how much I was working on it. What kind of different approaches I was using to get adjusted to seeing left on left. And the results showed today.”

Mullins was asked if his struggles batting right-handed were weighing on him.

“Yeah, it was getting difficult to try and create two different swings,” he said. “I know my left-side is my natural side, so trying to develop my right-handed swing at the highest level was challenging. I tried to do the best I can to see if it could develop quicker. It just didn’t work out that way, so I felt going left on left was the best decision.”

Mullins said today was the first time he batted lefty against a lefty since his junior year of high school. He started as a switch-hitter as a senior, although he had toyed with it at times before that.

Both starting pitchers had very long first innings that ended in a 1-1 tie and took 33 minutes to play.

O’s left-hander John Means became the third Baltimore starter in three games to be scored on in the opening inning. His inning ended after just two outs and he had thrown nearly 30 pitches. DJ LeMahieu led off and singled on the 11th pitch. With one out, a Gleyber Torres fly to left fell in front of Yusniel Diaz for a single on a possible catchable ball. When Clint Frazier singled with two outs, New York led 1-0. Jay Flaa came on in relief to get the third out.

Because the rules are relaxed in spring games, Means came out back out to start the second inning. He put up a zero in a much quicker and smoother frame. He worked around a two-out single.

So his final line was 1 2/3 innings, four hits, one run, no walks or strikeouts. O’s starters have allowed five runs (four earned) over 4 2/3 innings.

Means was asked about re-entering the game in the top of the second inning.

“When I saw skip coming out, I was a little confused,” he said. “I knew I had two (outs). And I had no idea that was a rule, that I could go back out. And once he came to the mound, he was like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to go back out next inning.’ A little confused for a little bit, but you know it’s the way of the times. Jay did a great job coming in and then I got my second inning in.”

The Orioles tied today’s game 1-1 and needed just two batters in the home first to do it. Mullins’ triple to center was followed by Trey Mancini’s sac fly. The O’s would go on to load the bases on two walks and an infield hit. But two strikeouts by Diaz and Stevie Wilkerson followed and the O’s could not add to the one run.

New York scored three in the third off Paul Fry. Mike Ford had a two-run double as Fry allowed two singles and two doubles. César Valdez fanned the side in the New York fourth and knuckleballer Mickey Jannis pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning with Adley Rutschman catching him. The Orioles also got scoreless innings today from Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser.

Baltimore pitchers fanned eight without allowing a walk.

O’s batters were held to four hits and have just 14 hits in three games. Diaz, who homered on Sunday went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts today.

Means on getting a test early versus New York: “It’s kind of spring training for everybody and these are some guys I’m going to have to get out during the season. When I saw the lineup, I’m kind of happy with that. I want some tough at-bats. Get as many of them as you can in spring. It’s a good team, a great team. But we’re going to have to get used to it.”

Means on the tough first inning and the pitch count he was looking for: “You try to keep it around a certain number. I think I was shooting for 15 or 20 each inning. Obviously, that first one went long. That was a little frustrating because I don’t like getting taken out in the first - in any inning really. Being a competitive person, not the best. But this is first game of spring training. So just warming up and I was still happy with the performance.”

Means on his pitches today: “My off-speed pitches probably need a little bit of work. The changeup honestly felt pretty good. I thought some of them were close. But, you know, there is still stuff to work on and it’s the first game. So not too worried about it.

“I thought I threw some pretty good curveballs in the second inning. Not great locations, but I thought the break was good. I threw a couple in the first inning that were ball to ball so wasn’t really getting the kind of swings or even looks on it that I would like. I just threw the one slider. It got hit back at me; it wasn’t in a good spot, but I didn’t mind the break. Just need a little bit more crisp, but that’s kind of part of it with the first game.”

Mullins on how long until he feels comfortable batting lefty versus a lefty: “I don’t see it being that long, if not already feeling that way. I do have some comfortable at-bats earlier today. It was a matter of all the work I put in during the offseason. I hit off the machine a lot and creating a lot of the different spins that lefties would create and I felt really comfortable today.”

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