Adam Jones
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Cedric Mullins to take over center field duties for Orioles

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Top prospect Cedric Mullins is the Orioles’ new center fielder, the team announced Friday. Mullins was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk earlier in the day and is making his major debut during the Orioles’ series opener against the Red Sox, while the club’s established center fielder, Adam Jones, shifts over to his new spot in right field.

Mullins, 23, came in at no. 9 in the Orioles’ system during MLB Pipeline’s midseason prospect rankings this year. His speed and defensive ability has made him a covetable asset in the outfield, and his combined .288/.346/.465 batting line, 11 home runs, and 21 stolen bases (in 22 chances) at Double-A and Triple-A have made him an equal threat in the lineup.

It’s an amicable passing of the torch for veteran outfielder and four-time Gold Glover Jones, whose fWAR dipped to a career-worst 0.4 mark in 2018 even as he slashed .281/.310/.430 with 12 homers and a .740 OPS for the club. Per MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli, Jones is expected to be permanently stationed at the right field corner after spending over a decade in center field, though the team isn’t pushing him to scale back his playing time by any means — according to comments made by skipper Buck Showalter, he’ll continue to play “as long as he wants to.”

Jones, for his part, doesn’t appear rattled by the change.

Mike Rizzo and Shawn Kelley almost got into a physical confrontation

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A few weeks back the Washington Nationals designated reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment the morning after he threw his glove into the ground and glared at the Nats dugout in frustration after giving up a homer in a blowout win against the Mets. He was later traded to the Athletics. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said at that time that he thought Kelley was trying to show up his manager and that there was no room for that sort of thing on the team, offering an “either you’re with us or you’re working against us” sentiment in the process.

Today the Washington Post talks about all of the Nationals’ bullpen woes of late, and touches on the departure of Kelley as being part of the problem. In so doing, we learn that, on the night of Kelley’s mound tantrum, he and Rizzo almost got into a physical confrontation:

Rizzo headed down to the clubhouse and confronted Kelley, according to people familiar with the situation. The argument became heated, including raised voices, and eventually it almost became physical, according to people familiar with the exchange. Adam Eaton got between the two of them and separated them before things could advance further . . .

Might I point out that, the fact of this emerging now helps to vindicate Brandon Kintzler who, the day before, was traded away, some say, for being the source for negative reports from inside the Nats’ clubhouse?

That aside, the article does not make anyone look good, really. Rizzo had the backing of his team with the Kelley incident, but the overall story — how did the Nats’ bullpen, which was once a strength — get so bad? — does no favors for Rizzo. Mostly because he seems to have thought that they had so much extra bullpen depth that they could afford to deal away Kintzler, which he says was a financial move, not a punitive trade for being a media source.

Question: when was the last time you heard a baseball man say he had too much relief pitching? Especially today, in which the bullpen has assumed such a prominent role? Seems rather unreasonable to cut relievers when you’re trying mightily to come back from a sizable deficit in the standings, yes?