BALTIMORE — In the latest development in the rebuild of the Baltimore Orioles, the ball-club called up outfielder Cedric Mullins from Triple-A Norfolk prior to Friday’s series opener against the Red Sox at Camden Yards.
The move had been expected for awhile with Mullins carrying a .288 average and a .346 on-base percentage (OBP) between both Norfolk and Double-A Bowie this season. The arrival of Mullins saw a noticeable change in the Orioles’ outfield that’s been rumored for weeks. When the Baltimore lineup card was revealed a few hours before first pitch, Mullins’ name was penned batting ninth in the centerfield slot, with long-time centerfielder Adam Jones in right-field while still hitting from the #3 spot in the lineup.
“Adam’s playing right field today and that’s the direction we’re going tonight,” manager Buck Showalter said during Friday’s pre-game press conference. “Is he going to play right field the rest of the year? Yeah, as opposed to who? My plan is for Adam to play right field until he needs a day off and we’ve got some other options, without naming other guys down in Triple-A. But Adam’s playing right field.”
The change in centerfield from Jones to Mullins marks a new era for the Orioles. Dating back to 2008, Jones has started 1,537 games manning centerfield for the Orioles. Tonight marked just the fourth career start for Jones in right-field, and the first in his Orioles career. The other three appearances for Jones in right took place with the Mariners before the infamous 2007 trade that sent Jones to Baltimore. The change to right field certainly isn’t easy for the 33-year-old Jones, but the O’s legend had no problem passing the torch.
As the Orioles got set to take the field, Jones refused to step out of the dugout before Mullins. Jones, who usually leads the team onto the field, deferred to the rookie. After a quick discussion (and getting bypassed out of the dugout by Tim Beckham), Mullins trotted onto the field, with Jones behind him.
The entire game did not see much effective pitching, and Mullins used that to his advantage. In his first major league at-bat in the second inning, Mullins smacked a 97-MPH Nathan Eovaldi fastball to the corner in right field for a double, plating Renato Nuñez. Mullins’s contribution became part of a four-run inning that gave the Orioles a 4-3 lead. The 23-year-old finished up his first offensive appearance by crossing home, appropriately scoring on a single by Jones.
The Orioles again plated four in the third inning, where Mullins delivered again in his second at-bat. This time, Mullins racked up his second RBI on a sharply-hit bouncer to second baseman Brock Holt. The Red Sox infield was drawn in, and Holt could not find the correct angle on the ball before it bounced off the ground and rolled into right field. Mullins scored again on a single, this one by Beckham.
In the fifth inning, Mullins reached base again by walking with two outs, but would not advance as Jonathan Villar lined out to Boston left-fielder Andrew Benintendi. Mullins hit a pop-up to Benintendi in the seventh. Finally in the ninth, Mullins came up again with two outs and delivered another double to right-center, capping off a hot night at the plate: 3-for-5 with two doubles, a single, and two RBI. Mullins crossed home for the third time when Villar singled to center for Baltimore’s 12th run, but Beckham followed that up with an infield groundout to end the game.
Defensively, Mullins looked like a natural in centerfield, but the night was not perfect. In the fourth inning, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a 91-MPH fastball by Dylan Bundy to deep left center that proved to be a tough test for Mullins. The ball was hit hard enough to send Mullins full speed to the warning track. Mullins extended his right arm out and the ball graced the edge of his glove, but dropped and bounced to the right of Mullins, leading to a triple and a run with Holt crossing.
The play is certainly one that Mullins would like to have back, but these things can happen in unfamiliar ballparks with new teammates. Mullins will get more comfortable with the dimensions of Camden Yards in due time. Having Jones there to offer support and advice will pay huge dividends.
Bradley Jr.’s triple made it 8-4 Baltimore. Although the Red Sox mustered that lone run in the fourth, they would plate six in the sixth inning, largely in-part to five walks by the Orioles. The Red Sox put together a five-run eighth inning, giving them four big innings in the contest. After the Red Sox made it a 19-12 final, the Orioles finished the game with 10 walks charged to their pitching staff. Red Sox pitchers walked four for a total of 14 walks own the evening.
According to Rob Daniels on Twitter, this loss marks the third time in team history in which the Orioles allowed 19 or more runs along with 10 or more walks. The Red Sox pitching staff walked four Orioles batters on their side.
After the fact…
Image Credit: Baltimore Sun