BALTIMORE — Forget the four-game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox, the best team in baseball.
This weekend might one day be looked back upon as a turning point in recent Orioles history.
I should emphasize one day, of course. And that day … man, oh, man, could be so very far away.
Baltimore on Friday called up outfield prospect Cedric Mullins, 23, in one of several maneuvers in the last few weeks to get young in a hurry. That meant somewhat of a seismic shift for the franchise — Adam Jones, a staple in center since he arrived in 2008, got bumped to right field.
That move wasn’t too much of a shock, really, although a month ago I’d have been stunned if someone told me Jones would still be with the Orioles. But, the veteran wanted to stay for the remainder of the season, and he has exuded class in dealing with the whole thing.
Jones, in fact, insisted Mullins lead the team onto the field before the first pitch Friday night.
Mullins responded with three hits, three runs, and two RBIs in his debut.
The rookie came out of the dugout first again Sunday afternoon and headed for center, with Jones in right once more. Mullins made a nice running catch in the third inning, robbing Jackie Bradley, Jr. of extra bases.
He legged out an infield hit and scored a run in the eighth.
There’s really nothing negative to say about the young man, who is getting an opportunity to prove himself and perhaps become a bright spot in these final months of a disastrous season.
He’s fast, energetic, and appears to be able to handle the moment.
Those tangibles, among others, are exactly what the Orioles need.
Never mind they fell 4-1 on Sunday as Boston completed its sweep. The Orioles remain on pace to lose 115 games.
They haven’t lost 100 games in 30 years, and it’s only happened three times since Baltimore relocated from St. Louis. And you have to go back to 1939 for the “unofficial” official franchise record, when the lowly Browns finished 43-111.
The Orioles were 54-100 in their first season in Baltimore, seventh place in an eight-team American League and 54 ½ games out of first (thank you, Philadelphia Athletics, for your 51-103 record).
In 1988, the infamous “0-21” season, the Orioles wound up 54-107 and 34.5 games back.
Chris Sale and the Red Sox handed Baltimore its fifth consecutive loss Sunday — Sale, fresh off the disabled list, had 12 strikeouts in five innings; the O’s whiffed 18 times — and the Orioles fell 49 ½ games behind Boston.
The weekend also signaled Baltimore’s official elimination from the playoffs. Another move that shocked no one (heck, fans likely figured it happened before the All-Star break).
So when things are this down and out, and Chris Davis is flailing away with gusto in every game, what's an Orioles fan to turn to?
The notion that a turnaround is coming, provided youngsters such as Mullins can create the right mix of success.
No doubt the Orioles will look quite different in 2019, regardless of what they do with their remaining veterans and pending free agents.
A rotation that includes Dylan Bundy, 25, and, perhaps, Hunter Harvey, provided the 23-year-old can ever overcome a rash of injuries.
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There’s right-hander Luis Ortiz, 21, who came over in the trade that send Jonathan Schoop to Milwaukee. And lefty Josh Rogers, 24, who arrived from the Yankees as part of the Zach Britton deal.
(And don’t forget the handful of Dodgers prospects now in Baltimore’s farm system via Manny Machado.)
Maybe an outfield that includes Mullins, Austin Hays, 23, and DJ Stewart, 24.
And Ryan Mountcastle, 21, in the infield, with Jonathan Villar, 27, and Renato Nunez, 24.
That’s a lot of twentysomethings.
If half of them stick and stay, the Orioles will at least have a course to chart on paper.
But seeing the Red Sox, who could wind up having one of the best seasons in baseball history, and their crop of young talent have its way with the Orioles just shows how so very far Baltimore has to go.