Orioles center fielder Mullins exits Monday’s game with groin strain

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BALTIMORE — The Orioles have lost three of four games and scored just 11 runs over their last 46 innings at the plate, but the club still sporting the third-best record in the majors now has a more legitimate reason for concern.

Center fielder Cedric Mullins left Monday’s 5-0 loss to Cleveland in the eighth inning with what manager Brandon Hyde described as “a right adductor groin strain.” Baltimore’s leadoff hitter and leader in wins above replacement and runs batted in this season, Mullins was slow running out a grounder before pulling up a few feet short of first base and later limping to the dugout. The 28-year-old exited the game in the top of the ninth and will continue to be evaluated before a decision is made whether to place him on the 10-day injured list.

“We’re going through all the tests right now. We’re hoping for great news on that, but you never know,” Hyde said. “It’s the last thing you want to see. He’s a huge part of our team. If we’re going to miss him for a little while, we’ll see. If we have to, then other guys step up. This is part of the game. We’ve been pretty fortunate so far this year, and these things happen.”

Mullins ranks at or near the top in multiple offensive categories for the Orioles, who officially completed a third of their 162-game season on Monday afternoon and are on pace to win 102 games. Two years after playing in his first All-Star Game and becoming the first player in club history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season, Mullins entered Monday on pace to set new career highs in walks, steals, and RBIs while continuing to play superb defense in center. Earlier this month, he became the seventh player in Orioles history to hit for the cycle.

The lefty-swinging Mullins is batting .263 with eight homers, 12 doubles, 39 RBIs, 13 steals, and an .835 on-base plus slugging percentage in 224 plate appearances this season.

The timing of the injury coincides with Triple-A Norfolk outfielders Kyle Stowers and Colton Cowser both being on the seven-day IL. The Orioles could turn to Tides outfielder Daz Cameron, who does have some major league experience. The 26-year-old is not on the current 40-man roster, but he is batting .267 with seven homers, 26 RBIs, and an .840 OPS at the Triple-A level this season.

Should Mullins miss time, the Orioles would likely lean on reserve outfielder Ryan McKenna to play more, but left fielder Austin Hays could also see time in center and shortstop Jorge Mateo is capable of playing there.

“You hate to see anybody go down. Cedric is one of the biggest pieces of this team and one of the biggest drivers of us winning this year and this winning season,” McKenna said. “It’s going to be a loss for our team, but I prepare the same way every game I can. If I’m going to be in the lineup more, I’ll be ready and prepared to do so.”

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