MOOSIC, Pa.—Shortly after Mike Elias took over as Orioles general manager, he sent an email to the team’s season ticketholders. In the letter, Elias mentioned four players he thought the team could build around: Trey Mancini, Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens, and a young outfielder who showed promise at the end of the 2018 season, Cedric Mullins.
It has been nearly two months since the Orioles sent Mullins to Norfolk after he began the season with a horrendous .094 average (6-for-64).
The problems for Mullins began in spring training, when he hit just .151 in just 53 at-bats.
Once the season started, things got worse. He was in a 1-for-27 skid when the team decided to send him to the Tides.
Mullins had an impressive start with the Orioles. In his major league debut last August 10, Mullins had three hits, and by the end of the month, he was hitting .317. The Orioles had moved veteran Adam Jones to right field to make way for Mullins, and he was making the decision look good.
Until September, when Mullins hit just .187. Overall, the switch-hitter did well enough against right-handers, batting .264, but he hit just .156 against left-handers with only one RBI in 45 at-bats.
Mullins’ inability to hit major league pitching continued in the spring.
“It was a struggle,” Mullins said. “That’s putting it lightly. I didn’t feel necessarily overmatched. It was more that I wasn’t able to get my body to do what my mind was seeing at the time.
“With the way I was playing and just in terms of contributing to the team, it wasn’t where I wanted to be, so I wasn’t completely surprised when it [the demotion] did happen, but I’m going to take this opportunity to continue to grow as a player and work my way back up.”
Mullins had two hits, including a two-run home run, in Norfolk’s 9-7 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday night, raising his average to .229. He has five home runs and 20 RBIs.
“The organization made a decision, and Cedric is here to get work and to work on the things that he didn’t really accomplish well at the big league level,” Tides manager Gary Kendall said.
“It wasn’t so much them talking to us about his batting average. It was more about getting him to run as much as he can, getting him to bunt, getting him to play and getting him to utilize his tools within the game.”
Mullins has been aggressive on the bases, stealing 10 in 13 attempts.
“They know he can play the outfield,” Kendall said. “To get down a bunt when he needs to get down a bunt, whether it’s a sacrifice or a base hit bunt and to get men over, to use his speed as an asset, to baserun effectively, to not get doubled off and go first to home on a double if you can, to steal bases and not force [it], but steal bases when the game dictates.”
It’s a long list of things to work on, and while he’s been with Norfolk, Mullins has watched two other outfielders, Anthony Santander and DJ Stewart, get calls to go to the Orioles.
“I’m going through the curve of dealing with failure,” Mullins said. “I’m staying optimistic and continuing to progress every day.”
One thing that has seemingly changed is where Mullins plays. He was thought to be Jones’ successor in center, but now it appears that the Orioles have Austin Hays as their centerfielder of the near future.
Mullins has shifted around more than he expected to.
“As long as I’m on the field, I’ll play my best whether that would be center, left, wherever they need me out there, I’ll play,” Mullins said.
Mullins has watched Mancini overcome an awful start to his 2018 season and play up to his potential this year. He’s confident he can do the same.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys have their years where it’s just a struggle and you have to grind each day,” Mullins said. “Trey is having the success he had because he’s learned from his past failures. He didn’t have the year that he wanted the previous year, and he turned it around for sure.”
Kendall was with Mullins for his strong half-season at Bowie last year, and he’s with him again now.
“He’s gone through some tough times offensively, but I think he’s coming through a lot of things,” Kendall said. “He’s had some good games lately, and hopefully he’s going in the right direction.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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