Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins, whose breakout season for the rebuilding club was rewarded with a starting spot for the American League, will come away with plenty of memories from his first All-Star Game appearance Tuesday night in Denver. But not any hits.
Mullins hit a soft ground ball up the middle with a runner on first in the fifth inning, and though he likely would have beaten the throw had San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford fielded it cleanly, a bobble meant there was no play at first.
The official scorer ruled Mullins reached on an error, and he later scored the AL’s fourth run for a 4-0 lead in an eventual 5-2 victory, the league’s eighth straight in the annual event. Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who hit a 468-foot solo home run in the third inning and drove in another run on a groundout in the fifth, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. At 22 years and 119 days, he is the youngest All-Star Game MVP since the award debuted in 1962.
Los Angeles Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani pitched a perfect inning for the win and batted leadoff for the AL in becoming baseball’s first two-way All-Star. He leads the major leagues with 33 homers and is 4-1 in 13 starts as a pitcher.
Mullins, leading off the third inning for the AL in the No. 9 hole, struck out against Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes in his first plate appearance and didn’t have a ball hit to him in center field until the third inning by San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Mullins — wearing an all-blue uniform with “BAL” and the Orioles script logo on the left chest, as the All-Star Game ditched traditional home and away uniforms for the first time in 90 years — was replaced in the sixth inning by the Texas Rangers’ Adolis García.
Even without getting credited with a hit, the Orioles outfielder didn’t get short-changed on his experience in Denver. He joined the set of MLB Network shows and served as the proverbial corner man for teammate Trey Mancini in the Home Run Derby Monday night, providing words of encouragement, Gatorade and towels in equal measure as Mancini reached the finals.
His Purple Carpet outfit, inspired by his favorite anime series Naruto, was a hit on social media, and Mullins’ whole family got to share the experience of strolling up to Coors Field together Tuesday.
Mullins is batting .314 with a .921 OPS and 16 home runs to go with 16 steals and playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field, making him a shoo-in to replace injured Angels star Mike Trout in the AL starting lineup.
He told The Athletic that he found out he was starting Thursday and had to keep the news secret, and when AL manager Kevin Cash announced the starting lineup at Monday’s press conference, Mullins could hear his mother screaming with excitement in a nearby hotel room.
Starting the All-Star Game is quite an accomplishment considering Mullins’ career trajectory. He was the team’s center fielder of the future entering the 2019 season after taking over for the beloved Adam Jones the summer before, but struggled badly in April and was sent down to the minors.
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“It’s good to be able to reflect on those moments and know that I’ve grown and matured as a player,” Mullins said before All-Star weekend. “It’s just a matter of continuing to progress from here. It feels like I’ve hit a sort of peak, but I’m trying to see if I can continue to push that limit.”