BALTIMORE (AP) — The reshaping of the Baltimore Orioles took another significant turn Friday when longtime center fielder Adam Jones was moved to right field to make room for rookie Cedric Mullins.
Jones has started in center for Baltimore since his arrival in 2008. The 33-year-old played the position well enough this year, but the last-place Orioles are ready to try someone younger and faster in the middle of the outfield.
Manager Buck Showalter called Jones "one of the great center fielders in Oriole history," but said the 12-year veteran has known for a while that the switch was coming.
"It had to be the right guy," Showalter said. "We think Cedric might be the right guy."
The 23-year-old Mullins had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup against Boston. He was to play center field and bat ninth in his big league debut.
This is not a one-day experiment.
"Adam will play right and Cedric will play center. That's the way I perceive it," Showalter said. "If something happens with Cedric, we'll see. If something happens with Adam, well, I hope nothing does."
He added: "This is about the future going forward."
Jones' contract expires after this season. The Orioles attempted to send him to another team before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but Jones had the right of refusal and used it.
Now, he will play out the season in right field while helping Mullins adjust to playing center in the big leagues.
"Him being the team leader, he's been very supportive with me playing center field," Mullins said. "We've had a lot of contact about it and just guiding me through it."
Mullins was selected by Baltimore in the 13th round of the 2015 draft. He started the year with Double-A Bowie before moving up to Norfolk.
In 59 games with Norfolk, he hit .267 with five homers, 18 RBIs and 12 steals. Mullins also carried a .994 fielding percentage.
Mullins played in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League with the Utica Brewers in the summer of 2014 following his sophomore year at Louisburg College. He transferred from the junior college to Campbell University and signed with the Orioles following the draft the following June. While in Utica, Mullins batted .287 and scored 34 runs in 41 games, starting 37, and stole 22 bases in 26 attempts.
To make room for Mullins, the Orioles designated Danny Valencia for assignment — yet another move to make the team younger. The 33-year-old Valencia was batting .263 with nine homers and 28 RBIs.
"I'd be surprised if he doesn't land with a contending club," Showalter said.