BALTIMORE — Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t hide how pleased he was to plug Cedric Mullins back into the Baltimore Orioles’ lineup Saturday.
Considering the initial fears the team had when Mullins went on the injured list after suffering a groin strain May 29th, his happiness was understandable.
“This was by far the best-case scenario,” Hyde said.
Mullins was originally scheduled to play center field Saturday against the Seattle Mariners. Those plans changed around 2:20 p.m., right around the time a shower soaked the ballpark — and the outfield Mullins was set to patrol.
Instead, the 28-year-old will serve as the designated hitter Saturday. But simply having his bat back in the lineup is a plus for Baltimore, which went 11-9 during his absence.
Mullins said he had a hamstring injury when he was in the minor leagues in 2017, and his latest issue initially reminded him of that. But since it didn’t feel as bad, he had an inkling he wouldn’t be out too long.
Still, he wasn’t completely sure — at least until late in second week of rehab when he stretched things out and tried to get to peak speed while running on grass.
“This is an injury I’ve never dealt with before, so there was really no idea in my head what the timeline would be like,” Mullins said. “My body responded really well down in Florida and I was able to progress every single day.”
Mullins went 1-for-10 with a homer during a three-game rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Norfolk this week. Yet his work at the plate was a secondary priority as he worked his way back.
“The swing side of it, I wasn’t too concerned about,” Mullins said. “It really was just the running. How does my body react to shifting positions, changing angles, running straight and foot speeds? It felt like it came along pretty well.”
Right stuff for Hicks: With Mullins activated, Aaron Hicks could see some time in right field for the first time since September 30th, 2017. Hicks was originally scheduled to play right Saturday before a lineup adjustment moved Mullins to designated hitter.
“He hasn’t been there for a while,” Hyde said. “There’s a guy named Judge who plays over there in New York, but he’s played outfield his whole life. He’s going to be playing all three spots and he’s fully aware of that.”
Hicks’ versatility will also occasionally lighten the demands on Anthony Santander, Baltimore’s everyday rightfielder. Santander was supposed to DH on Saturday before the lineup tweak and instead started in right.
Roster shuffle: To make room for Mullins, the Orioles optioned Josh Lester to Norfolk. Lester hit .182 with four RBIs this month for Baltimore. He primarily filled in at first base but was also called upon to pitch a scoreless ninth inning of Friday’s 13-1 loss to Seattle.
The Orioles also recalled left-hander Bruce Zimmermann from Norfolk and optioned right-handed reliever Logan Gillaspie to the Tides.
Zimmermann is 3-3 with a 3.50 ERA in 11 starts at Norfolk and rejoins the Orioles after posting a 7.20 ERA in two appearances earlier this month. Gillaspie is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in 11 games with Baltimore and appeared twice in his latest stint with the Orioles.
Updating Mountcastle: First baseman Ryan Mountcastle, on the injured list since June 10th because of vertigo, is 0-for-11 with a walk and five strikeouts in three rehabilitation assignment games with Triple-A Norfolk.
“I’d like to see him get going offensively, too,” Hyde said. “The most important thing is that he feels good and responds the next day feeling well.”
Pitching plans set through Wednesday: Right-hander Kyle Bradish (3-3, 3.88 ERA) will start Sunday’s series finale against Seattle, keeping him on four days rest. Lefty Cole Irvin (1-3, 7.71) will make his first start since June 16 when Baltimore opens a three-game series Monday against Cincinnati.
Tyler Wells will follow on Tuesday, five days removed from his last start, before Kyle Gibson gets the nod on regular rest Wednesday.