Filling the void left by someone as impactful as Adam Jones was not going to be an easy task for outfielder Cedric Mullins, but those around the organization and Mullins himself could not have seen this season going the way it has for the 24-year-old.
In August 2018, Mullins was called up by the Orioles and Jones left his longtime spot in center field for right field so the organization could see what they had in Mullins. Mullins impressed, and he started 2019 as the Opening Day center fielder for the Orioles.
But after batting .094 with four RBIs and one stolen base through 22 big-league games early this year, Mullins was sent down to Triple-A Norfolk to fix his game. Though the change of scenery in Triple-A usually helps most players, Mullins continued to struggle at the plate, posting a .205/.272/.306 line. He was recently demoted all the way back to Double-A Bowie.
"It's interesting to say the least," Mullins said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Aug. 2. "To be on what I would consider one of the highest highs of my career last year and then to come back and feel that almost role reversal right off the bat, it's frustrating. But through frustration is growth and it's a matter of continuing to strive forward and making the adjustments that do work for me to elongate success in the future."
Thus far, Mullins has shown signs of improvement with Bowie. He is slashing .265/.333/.357 for the Baysox and has stolen 11 bases through 25 games, a skill he prides himself on and wanted to improve while in the minors. Mullins thinks this trip to the minors has been a good learning experience and something that will help him when he is back with the big-league club.
"I think one of the things that I've learned to cope with and break free of is there are certain situations I have put on myself as a player. For example, taking bases when I see the opportunity instead of trying to think of every reason why I should run in a situation," Mullins said. "Just having the instincts to know I do have the speed to steal a bag when I need to and I feel the moment is right. Just going through that and taking it to the box and freeing up my swing and not trying to be too critical of myself."
The biggest thing that sent Mullins on a tour of the Orioles' minor league system was his trouble at the plate this season, which he's focused on improving at Norfolk and Bowie. Mullins is a career .264/.322/.425 hitter across more than 2,000 minor-league plate appearances.
"I've definitely looked at tons and tons of video of my swing for things that can not only be improved but possibly changed," Mullins said. "At the end of the year, I want to be able to go into the offseason with a clear goal in mind of what I want my swing to be going into the future so that I can run into more success and get more consistent at-bats."
One thing that has helped Mullins and also many others in the Orioles organization is the use of new technology to help with their swing such as TrackMan. Mullins has always considered himself a "math guy," so he learning what he can take out of the new technology has not been a chore for him. He's been impressed with what it can do for a player.
"Of course, you talk about the launch angle and this, that and the other, but that's just the basics of it," Mullins said. "You can go into much further detail in terms of places in the zone that are hot for your swing, what different bat angles might do that create higher exit velo. There is so much that is involved with that. Just touching the surface is good for the organization."
Things have started to look up for Mullins during the past 10 games in Bowie. During that stretch, the outfielder is hitting .325 with 13 hits and six stolen bases. If that stretch continues, it might not be long before he is back in Norfolk and eventually back in Baltimore.
"I feel like something is definitely coming together. I know I have been putting some balls in play hard that I know in the past I have missed. It's just a matter of not missing my pitch and I have been able to do that pretty well this past week," Mullins said. "It's a matter of finding a routine. I have been putting in the early work and plenty of it just to train my body to be accustomed to do what is necessary to prepare for the game."
For more from Mullins, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Bill Vaughan/Bowie Baysox