Orioles hand Cedric Mullins leadoff debut after rookie meets with longtime Indians star Kenny Lofton

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Just a week into his major league career, Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins is getting his leadoff debut Friday night against Cleveland — a move that not-so-coincidentally came on a day he met longtime Indians star Kenny Lofton before the game.

“I just thought it was a good matchup,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I wanted him to get five or six or seven games, whatever it’s been, under his belt. On the road, right-handed pitcher starting — it’s a good spot for him. And I thought he might spend some time with Kenny Lofton today. [First base coach Wayne] Kirby and Kenny and Cedric — there are reasons why. I always saw Lofton as one of the great leadoff hitters I ever saw. It’s great to see him talking in there with Cedric. It’s a process. It’s a journey with guys like Cedric, and it’s another part of what he hope is a good foundation for him.”

Kirby, who played with Lofton in Cleveland from 1991 to 1996, arranged the meeting in the Orioles clubhouse. Showalter listened in from his office and said that one of the things that stood out to him was Lofton’s message of knowing yourself as a player and attacking weaknesses as they emerge to become a complete player.

That such a message can be delivered from a six-time All-Star in Lofton to Mullins, who is batting .400 (8-for-20) with four doubles in six major league games, is part of what makes Showalter hope the young outfielder can grow into a significant role with the Orioles.

He said Mullins has “got a chance to be” that kind of traditional leadoff hitter that Showalter often laments the lack of around the game.

“There’s a lot of roads to cross,” Showalter said. “You could read four, five different reports on what everyone wants to say that he’s going to be. What’s he going to become? I just want to know, like I’ve said many times, that they’re going to be what they can be. I’m very confident Cedric will be what he can be. He’s got a lot of the old-school characteristics that you look for in leadoff hitters.”

He certainly has plenty of experience — Mullins has hit leadoff in all but eight of his 376 minor league games since the Orioles selected him in the 13th round of the 2015 major league draft.

Around the horn

Several Orioles players brought their fathers on this weekend’s trip to Cleveland, the first such fathers’ trip the Orioles have had under Showalter. … Hall of Famer Jim Thome, who finished his career with the Orioles in 2012, will have his number retired by the Indians at Progressive Field before Saturday’s game. … Yefry Ramírez will start Sunday’s matinee in Cleveland.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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