BALTIMORE—Adam Jones’ tweet spoke poignantly. “End of an Era!!!! Embrace Change!!!!”
Jones tweeted that to signal that he acceded to, if not supported his move from center to right field as Cedric Mullins arrived from Triple-A Norfolk.
Mullins’ promotion was long awaited and when the announcement finally came Friday, Jones was prepared. He’d been working out in right field with first base coach Wayne Kirby.
Jones walked into the clubhouse as Mullins prepared for his first interview as a major leaguer. They shared a quick hug, and Jones disappeared, letting Mullins have the attention.
Mullins had a quick start with a run-scoring double and an RBI single in his first two-at bats in the Orioles 19-12 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Friday night. He added a double in the ninth inning to become the first player in team history with three hits in his Orioles debut.
Ever since Jones declined a trade to Philadelphia late last month, the Orioles had been seriously preparing for Mullins’ arrival. Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette said as much July 29 after the Orioles traded Brad Brach.
“I think the club is in the rebuild mode, and we’re going to be taking a look at some younger ballplayers going forward,” Duquette said. “We’ve made that clear. That’s the intent of the club, and that’s the direction we’re going to go in.”
Although it took the Orioles 12 more days to add Mullins, manager Buck Showalter made it clear that the move wasn’t a short-term one.
“Adam and I have been talking for a while,” Showalter said. “He knew. Adam’s a smart guy.”
The 23-year-old Mullins, who was drafted in the 11th round in 2015, was often asked to join the Orioles for spring games from minor league camp in 2017. Showalter was impressed with him, and this year he stayed with the team for the entirety of spring training.
Mullins started at Bowie and, after hitting .313 in 49 games, was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk, though some in the organization thought he should have come directly to Baltimore.
At Norfolk, Mullins hit .267 in 59 games. He’d missed three games because of illness this week, and once he was over that, got the call.
He and Jones had grown close during those weeks in Sarasota with lockers near each other.
“We have been in contact,” Mullins said. “Him being the team leader, he’s being very supportive with me playing center field. We’ve had a lot of contact, and he’s guiding me through that process.”
Mullins said the support from Jones has been crucial.
“It’s huge,” he said “Coming from a guy with 10 years under his belt. He’s been a huge veteran and a huge team leader for all these years. Being in direct contact with him for a huge moment in both of our careers has been amazing.”
Showalter has been honest with Jones, whose time with the Orioles may not last past Oct. 1.
“I think it’s real tribute to him,” Showalter said “He’s been talking to Cedric for a while. The thing that players don’t like, they just don’t like something being thrown on them, last second. He and I have been talking about it, a matter of when and not if.”
Mullins’ debut was somewhat spoiled by the Orioles’ sloppy pitching. The 19 runs were the most scored against them since July 16, 2012.
Showalter felt the team was energized by Mullins.
“That’s possible, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t pitch well,” Showalter said. “You walk 10 guys, I don’t care who you bring in there, right?”
According to STATS LLC, the Orioles have been mathematically eliminated from the AL East race with 46 games remaining, tying the 1962 Mets and 1932 Red Sox for earliest elimination. Their record is 35-81.
Mullins’ night began with a surprise when Jones allowed him to lead the team out on the field.
“The center fielder leads (the team) on the field, last time I checked,” Jones said.
Mullins couldn’t believe it.
“In all honesty, I thought he was messing with me,” Mullins said. “I was looking around, ‘So is the pitcher good? All right?’ And all the players were saying, ‘Hey, go, you’re leading it.’ So I took their word for it. And went out on the field. And then I took the scenic route. The long way around.
“It’s hard to explain. It kind of felt like a pass-the-torch situation. Just being able to feel like you’re taking charge of your debut. That’s the only way I can describe it,’ Mullins said.
Showalter, who has been eager to see Mullins play, is content with having Jones mentor him.
“I’m so happy he’s got someone like Adam to be there for him,” Showalter said. “It had to be the right guy. We think Cedric might be the right guy.”