BALTIMORE – When Cedric Mullins first reached the Majors in 2018, he was widely regarded as the heir apparent to the Orioles from Adam Jones in the middle of the field. The passing of the torch was not linear, the transition was not without considerable ups and downs. But Mullins looks like that player now, his upward, potentially All-Star first half catching the baseball world’s attention from afar.
This includes Jones, now 35, who is in his second season with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League. Almost three years after Mullins replaced Jones at center field, the two remain connected. Jones went out of his way to support Mullins recently from afar, interviewing the O’s center fielder on the latest episode of his “Heckle Deez” podcast, which he co-hosts with Reginald Fuggett.
“It’s about a 13 hour time difference, but I got it to work,” Mullins told MLB.com. “It was really good talking to him.”
Jones and Mullins discussed a variety of topics during their 30-minute conversation, from Mullins’ decision to drop punches this season to the ins and outs of rebuilding the Orioles. Mullins is the fourth Oriole past or present to appear on the Jones podcast, along with Trey Mancini, Delmon Young and LJ Hoes. Through a spokesperson, Jones declined to comment for this story.
“He contacted me and continues to motivate me and tells me to keep doing what I’m doing, to keep moving forward,” Mullins told MLB.com. “I’m the kind of person who keeps to himself and likes to get a feel for people before I open up. He is the opposite of that spectrum. [When we were teammates], he wanted me to feel as comfortable as possible as soon as possible, because I feel like he has some idea of my abilities on the pitch.
These are now evident, with Mullins among the AL leaders in hitting (0.315; fifth), hits (81; second), OPS (0.901; ninth) above par (7; tied for fifth) and Fangraphs wins Over Substitution (3.0; third) coming into play on Friday. It was a remarkable turnaround for a player who found himself in Double-A in 2019, less than a year after replacing Jones, gave up punches last winter and had to reclaim the starting center position from Baltimore this spring.
“I watched what is going on and right now you are as hot as the cicadas that have devoured the city [of Baltimore]! ”Jones told Mullins on his podcast.
Mullins said he and Jones spoke occasionally off the air, enough that when Jones reached out to the podcast, Mullins didn’t hesitate. Looking back, Mullins said the pressure to replace Jones at center led to his struggles in 2019 and 20, and he credited Jones with helping him persevere in those struggles.
“Putting it all in the past and keeping moving forward has really helped, and I’m making great strides in the field today,” Mullins told MLB.com. “I have a fairly large support group so I can’t necessarily identify exactly one person because there are a lot of people around you during times of uncertainty, of lack of confidence. Everyone that was in my corner including Jonesey, my family, my friends, the coaching staff, I give them all credit for staying by my side during this time.
One of the city’s most vocal and beloved athletes during his 11 years in Baltimore, Jones has openly expressed his desire to reconnect with the Orioles since leaving as a free agent after the 2018 season, saying even casually on Instagram that he would love to manage the team someday. For now, he’s content to be a prominent member of the growing Mullins fan club.
“Just know, I’m still watching,” Jones told Mullins on the podcast. “No matter where I am in the world, I always watch because I have the connections, I have the passion, I have the love for this organization. So keep on crushing and keep on thriving, brother.