Orioles' Mullins excited about playing for Team USA in World Baseball Classic - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Orioles’ Mullins excited about playing for Team USA in World Baseball Classic

Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

When the rosters for the World Baseball Classic were revealed on Thursday night, three Orioles were included, but two were not.

Centerfielder Cedric Mullins will be playing for Team USA, rightfielder Anthony Santander will play for Team Venezuela, and Dean Kremer will be the most experienced pitcher on Team Israel.

However, reliever Dillon Tate, who was expected to join Mullins on Team USA, wasn’t on the announced roster. And infielder Ramón Urias, who was supposed to join his brother, Luis, who plays for the Milwaukee Brewers, on Team Mexico, wasn’t on the list that was revealed.

Non-roster left-handed pitcher Darwinzon Hernandez will join Santander on Team Venezuela.

Left-hander Nick Vespi, who was supposed to play for Team Italy, had to withdraw because he had hernia surgery last month.

“It’s an exciting time and I’m going to be down there a couple of days early, just to settle in, get acclimated, get moving around before all the guys show up,” Mullins said at a Birdland Caravan event at the Crooked Crab Brewing Company in Odenton on Sunday.

Mullins and Santander will report ahead of the other position players, who are supposed to report to the Ed Smith Stadium Complex in Sarasota on February 20th.

WBC players will leave camp early next month for their respective teams.

“It’s definitely going to be an adjustment,” Mullins said. “I had talks with some guys, kind of getting a feel for where I need to be. I talked to Adam Jones to get an idea of what percentage he was at. [He said] roughly 80 would be good to go in and get your feet wet and still try to prepare for a season, but you definitely want to be ready for the WBC as well.”

Mullins’ decision to play was announced during the Orioles game against the Boston Red Sox at the Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pennsylvania..

“It’s going to be exciting,” Mullins said. “I’m going to be around a bunch of well-renowned talent. These guys have been doing it for a long time, and it’s just an honor to be a part of it.”

Mullins is looking forward to working with Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., Team USA’s hitting coach.

“That’ll probably be my guy that I stay close to and talk to for a little bit,” Mullins said.

In 2021, Mullins became the first Oriole to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season. In 2022, his average fell from .291 to .258, and he hit 16 home runs, but he drove in more runs (64) than he did in 2021 (59), and he stole 34 bases, trailing only teammate Jorge Mateo, who stole 35 to lead the American League.

One area Mullins would like to improve on is how he hits left-handers. In 2021, he abandoned switch-hitting and batted left-handed. He hit .277 against left-handers and .299 against right-handers. Last season, he hit .279 against right-handers, but only .209 against left-handers.

“This is my third year [as a left-handed hitter], so I’m looking to see the adjustments I’ve made come to fruition,” Mullins said. “That’s probably my main focus.”

Mullins was a stronger centerfielder last season. He had a career-high nine assists and a season after making six errors, Mullins didn’t make any.

Mullins is pleased with the offseason additions, and likes the feeling on the ’23 Orioles.

“I definitely like the guys that we added,” he said. “I think they bring that veteran presence. At the same time, we’re ready to win. It’s exciting to have those guys come in. The guys that we have right now kind of have that feeling of what it takes, also knowing what it felt like. We’re hungry to go out there and prove ourselves.”

At 28, Mullins is one of the older players on the Orioles.

“I think a lot of guys already know what they’re doing,” he said. “It’s a matter of creating that environment, staying relaxed and at the same time keeping that intense focus.”

Not only is Mullins one of the older players, he’s one of the few who has been with the Orioles since 2018. He was brought up 10 days after the team completed dealing away their veterans on July 31st, 2018.

“It definitely puts a chip on your shoulder,” Mullins said. “You’re representing your city and when people come out and support, it definitely brings a vibe of enthusiasm and just a winning mindset off the field.”

Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions in a mailbag just before spring training begins next week. Please email your questions to: [email protected].

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