Mullins' exit deals big blow to Baltimore's clubhouse

May 29th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles’ continued offensive struggles during a 5-0 loss to the Guardians became a secondary worry for the club late Monday afternoon. The primary concern expressed from a quiet clubhouse postgame was the health of standout center fielder .

During the bottom of the eighth inning, Mullins pulled up just ahead of first base while running out a ground ball hit to Cleveland shortstop Amed Rosario. Mullins, a speedster with 13 stolen bases in 2023, typically would have beaten the throw. However, he was injured on the play.

Manager Brandon Hyde said the initial diagnosis was a right abductor/groin strain, but Mullins was still undergoing further testing shortly following the conclusion of the game at Camden Yards. It sure seems possible, though, that the 28-year-old could be headed for the injured list.

“He’s a huge part of our team, and if we’re going to miss him for a little while -- we’ll see, but if we have to, then other guys step up,” Hyde said. “This is part of the game. We’ve been pretty fortunate so far this year, and these things happen.”

Baltimore has mostly avoided the injury bug, especially on the position-player side. The only big league players currently on the IL are pitchers John Means (Tommy John surgery recovery/left teres major strain) and Dillon Tate (right elbow flexor strain).

Not many other O's players have spent time on the injured list. Right-hander Mychal Givens (left knee inflammation) and catcher James McCann (left oblique strain) opened the season there. Right-hander Kyle Bradish (right foot contusion) missed 15 days in April. Infielder Ramón Urías missed a little more than two weeks earlier this month with a left hamstring strain.

The Orioles never had an outfielder go on the IL during their 83-win 2022 campaign. Mullins was a fixture up the middle all last season, and he has been for the majority of his six-year MLB career, all of which has been spent with Baltimore, which selected him in the 13th round of the ‘15 Draft. He’s never previously gone on the injured list as a big leaguer.

A 2021 All-Star and American League Silver Slugger Award winner, Mullins has been a spark plug atop the Orioles’ lineup again this season. He’s slashing .263/.356/.479 with 12 doubles, three triples, eight homers, 39 RBIs and 26 runs scored in 53 games. He also became the seventh player in team history (since 1954) to hit for the cycle when he did so May 12.

“If we lose him, it’s going to be a blow,” said right-hander , who struck out seven over six innings of one-run ball vs. Cleveland. “But at the same time, too, I think that we have a lot of resilient guys in here that will step up for him.”

If Mullins is placed on the IL, then Baltimore will make a corresponding move to fill his roster spot. The O’s won’t be calling up either Colton Cowser (the club’s No. 2 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 29 overall prospect) or Kyle Stowers from Triple-A Norfolk. Cowser is on the IL with left quad tightness, while Stowers is out due to right shoulder inflammation.

The Orioles have an open spot on their 40-man roster, so Daz Cameron could be an option. The 26-year-old outfielder spent much of Spring Training in big league camp and is slashing .267/.358/.481 with eight doubles, seven homers and 26 RBIs in 38 games for Norfolk.

Regardless of whom Baltimore may recall in that scenario, bench outfielder could get more starts in center should Mullins miss any time. McKenna, who has mostly served as a late-inning defensive replacement, is slashing .246/.288/.377 with five doubles, one homer and six RBIs in 42 games this season.

“You hate to see anybody go down,” McKenna said. “Cedric is one of the biggest pieces of this team and one of the biggest drivers of us winning this year and this winning season. It’s going to be a loss for our team. But I prepare the same way every game I can, so if I’m going to be in the lineup more, I’ll be ready and prepared to do so.”