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In 2021, centerfielder Cedric Mullins became the first Oriole to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season on a team that lost 110 games. Last season, Mullins finally got to play on a postseason team, and he had a forgettable season with two stints on the injured list and a .233 average.
Mullins played in 116 games, missing time with adductor/groin strains, and after he rested, he worked out with the aim of playing a full season again..
“Testing it out to make sure it was in a good place. It’s a matter of strengthening that area and continuing to focus on what it takes to keep that area secure and good to go for the season,” Mullins said at the Birdland Caravan stop at the Guiness Brewery in Halethorpe on Friday.
Mullins hit 15 home runs and stole 19 of 22 bases in 2023, and he did have a career-high 74 RBIs, but he didn’t consistently.
“From a health standpoint, it was disappointing,” Mullins said. “My play kind of followed the injuries. I look at how I started the year, and it was an unfortunate, freak situation. I’m focusing on my health and looking forward to the season.”
Mountcastle also looking to bounce back: First baseman Ryan Mountcastle also missed significant time in 2023. A bout with vertigo cost him a month, and he also had a shoulder injury late in the season.
Mountcastle played in 115 games, hitting .270 with a .779 OPS, 18 home runs and 68 RBIs. He was also a finalist for the Gold Glove.
Like almost all the Orioles, Mountcastle got to play in the postseason for the first time. The team’s loss in the Division Series to Texas took away some of the enjoyment of the season, but Mountcastle said he was eager to get started.
“A couple of days, it wasn’t fun, but getting back in the offseason and getting prepared for this year was the main goal,” Mountcastle said. “It was a great year, and nothing to hang your head about.”
It won’t be easy to repeat as American League East champs nor to top 101 games, the most since 1979.
“Very confident. We’ve got a young team with even more experience,” Mountcastle said.
He believes vertigo is behind him and looks forward to a complete 2024.
“Last year was the first year [I wasn’t] on the field as much as I wanted to be,” he said. “Trying to train now and prevent that.”
Other than adding Craig Kimbrel as a closer, the Orioles haven’t made any additions to the major league roster, and with just over two weeks before spring training begins, Mountcastle isn’t second-guessing the front office.
“I think the team we have right now is capable of winning and competing.” he said.
McKenna competing for outfield spot: In each of the past three seasons, Ryan McKenna has spent most of the year with the Orioles, but in 2024, he’ll have to work especially hard to secure a roster spot. His job is made harder because McKenna is out of options and can no longer be freely sent to Triple-A Norfolk.
“I have no control over any of that,” he said. “It’s just a matter of going out playing and preparing and getting ready for another awesome season with the guys.”
McKenna settled on a 2024 contract for $800,000 before the deadline for tendering contracts despite some uncertainty that he was no longer in the team’s plans.
“The thought crossed my mind,” McKenna acknowledges. “I wasn’t afraid … It was pretty smooth honestly. Us and the team were in good communication.”
McKenna knows there are young and highly touted outfielders behind him, though the team only added another outfielder, Sam Hilliard, a waiver claim from Atlanta.
“It’s been very competitive for the last couple of years now,” McKenna said. “A lot of young talent. A lot of really good people. I can’t stress that enough. That’s what makes really good teams. You have to have both. I’m excited. It’s going to be great.”
Webb competing for a bullpen spot: On August 7th, the Orioles claimed Jacob Webb off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels, and in 25 games, he had a 3.27 ERA.
Despite that, Webb isn’t a sure thing to make the Opening Day roster.
“It’s going to be a little bit of a competition in the spring.” Webb said. “I think we have a strong team as a whole. Every position is pretty solid, and I think we’re going to make a good run at it this year.”
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