The Orioles announced a series of roster moves Monday afternoon: Opening Day center fielder Cedric Mullins has been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, while infielder Stevie Wilkerson has had his contract selected from Norfolk to take Mullins’ place. In order to clear a spot on the 40-roster for Wilkerson, Baltimore has designated right-hander Josh Lucas for assignment.
Mullins, 24, stumbled to a slow start to open the year but excited Orioles fans with a two-triple game against the visiting A’s back on April 8. The organization hoped that day might’ve served as a turning point for the talented young center fielder, but he’s instead collected just two hits (both singles) in 44 plate appearances since that time. Mullins hasn’t been striking out at a lofty rate, with just nine punchouts in that time, but he’s already popped up to the infield on five occasions this year.
A 13th-round pick back in 2015, Mullins moved fairly quickly through the Orioles’ farm system; he only logged 125 games in Double-A and another 60 in the Majors before making his big league debut last year. It’s certainly feasible that he needs a bit more development time in Triple-A, where he held his own last year but didn’t exactly excel (.269/.333/.438 in 269 PAs). The Orioles likely still view Mullins as a potential long-term piece in the outfield, but he’ll be asked to earn his way back to the big leagues for the time being. In his place, it seems likely that Joey Rickard will step up and assume more playing time in center field.
The 27-year-old Wilkerson was outrighted off the 40-man roster earlier this year but will return for a second stint on the Orioles’ 40-man roster. He made his MLB debut with the club last year but didn’t fare well in a minuscule sample of 49 plate appearances (.174/.224/.239). Wilkerson, however, is a .290/.338/.481 hitter through 35 games at the Triple-A level and a career .268/.342/.371 hitter in parts of six minor league seasons. He’s played second base, third base, shortstop and corner outfield in the minors and should give manager Brandon Hyde some versatility off the bench.
As for Lucas, the 28-year-old made a trio of appearances for the O’s after being selected to the big leagues earlier this month. In 4 1/3 innings, he yielded a pair of earned runs on four hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Lucas has spent a bit of time in the Majors in each of the past three seasons now, and in 108 2/3 career innings of Triple-A ball, he has a 3.32 ERA with just under a strikeout per inning and 2.6 BB/9 while working primarily as a reliever.