Orioles' Cedric Mullins trying to maintain perspective amid slow start to second season

Cedric Mullins, a 24-year-old speedster with the potential to be a key figure in the Orioles’ long-term plans, is trying to keep the big picture in mind when it comes to this season, too.

In Wednesday’s 8-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Mullins saw his average drop below .100, but backed by the advice of the team’s veterans, the center fielder is trying to maintain perspective.


“Hey, you're two weeks into a six-month season,” Mullins recalled teammates telling him. “Please don't stress yourself over it. This is gonna turn around. You know you're a good hitter. You've had success all the way up to this point, and even when you got called up to the bigs, you've had success. Just a matter of going back to it."

The Orioles are showing more of a penchant for plate discipline, which is a departure from the past few years and is going to pay dividends.

Mullins slashed .289/.346/.472 between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk last season before hitting .235/.312/.359 in 45 games with the Orioles after a late-season call-up.

Entering Thursday, he’s hitting .098 with a .380 OPS in 2019. His only extra-base hits this season were two triples that came in consecutive at-bats April 8; since, Mullins is 1-for-27 with eight strikeouts.

“It's been the longest two weeks of my life,” Mullins said. “But I’m just slowing everything down and remembering that it is the first two weeks and that there are guys that are struggling as well out there, but they've turned it around within a few days. With that potential out there for grabs, I'm just ready to turn it around myself.”

Mullins is trying to do that with consistent tee work, as well as regular conversations about his approach with his teammates and coaching staff. He’s found himself taking a lot of fastballs in the strike zone while chasing breaking balls. According to FanGraphs, Mullins is swinging at 32.0% of pitches outside the strike zone, compared with 22.2% last season, while swinging at fewer pitches inside the zone, going after 59.4% versus 64.4% last season.

The Rays pounded Orioles right-hander Davis Hess in their 8-1 victory Wednesday, striking for six runs in his two-plus innings. Hess faced 13 batters, with 11 putting the ball in play at more than 97 mph.

“I'm taking a lot of fastballs for strikes that I can put the ball in play, do some damage with,” Mullins said. “Trying to stay away from the nasty stuff. Swinging at sliders in the dirt probably isn't gonna give me the best results.”

Like many of the young Orioles, that’s proving difficult. Mullins had two of the Orioles’ 13 strikeouts in Wednesday’s defeat, but none of the other batters who stepped in the box had to look at the Tropicana Field scoreboard and see an average with a first numeral of 0.

"I mean, you can basically argue I'm batting zero right now,” Mullins said. “It's just a matter of going out there and competing each at-bat.

"It's a rough start, but everybody goes through their struggles. I'm putting in the early work every day to make those adjustments."

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