Cedric Mullins entered the season with a glaring question flashing over his head.

Could this be the season he returns to the All-Star form he showed in 2021?

It wasn’t the long ago. But that was a different era for the Orioles, one in which they lost 110 games and, by default, needed at least one representative in the All-Star Game. Mullins, having the best year of his career, was the obvious choice. He went on to have a 30-30 season, hitting 30 home runs and stealing the same number of bases.

His 2023 season was statistically the worst of his career as he battled a groin strain that put him on the injured list twice. He still played in 116 games, but hit .233 with 15 home runs, his lowest numbers in a full season.

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Mullins had his moments, especially down the the stretch when he hit the sacrifice fly on Sept. 17 to secure the Orioles’ first playoff spot since 2016. But overall, he was not the sharp player the Orioles were used to.

This season, although young, has him back on track. That was on display Monday, as he not only made a diving catch to save a run but also hit a home run as the Orioles opened a series against the Twins with a 7-4 win.

Mullins’ teammates said the catch, which had him soaring toward the warning track as he landed flat on his stomach with the ball securely in his glove, was the best of his career. After spending time pondering the thought, Mullins said he agreed.

It saved at least one run from scoring. Starter Cole Irvin, who raised his hands high when the catch was made, said he plans to give Mullins a bottle of whiskey as a thank you.

“It was an all-out effort,” Mullins said. “It was one of those balls where you really don’t know until you get there. I knew I had a slight possibility so I’m going right for it.”

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Mullins, who is under team control only through the 2025 season, has four home runs on the season now, in addition to two stolen bases and 13 hits in 16 games. Things started to come together last week during the Red Sox series, he said, and he’s gone 9-for-21 since then.

He’s dropped down the lineup, no longer serving as leadoff man as younger, faster talent has taken over that spot. But his performance, in addition to his stellar defense in centerfield, has the Orioles facing tough decisions with top outfield prospects like Kyle Stowers and Heston Kjerstad trying to knock the door down.

“Cedric is a really, really important part of our team,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s played great centerfield defense and I love the way he’s swinging the bat the last week. It was a huge spark offensively also.”

Mullins’ home run in the fifth inning was one of three the Orioles hit against Minnesota, with Ryan O’Hearn and Gunnar Henderson also making sure the new “Homer Hydration Station” got plenty of action. Jordan Westburg had three hits, while Jackson Holliday, after getting his first hit on Sunday, went 0-for-4.

Cole Irvin pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing two runs, one off a home run, on four hits. He struck out four. Although Irvin’s outing was slightly shorter than his previous two, it was his best showing of his season so far.

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Irvin was able to limit damage instead of letting it snowball on him. He was removed before facing the predominantly right-handed lineup a third time through.

“I thought I played pretty well,” he said. “I made a couple mistakes, the homer was a bad pitch I didn’t execute where I wanted to. Everything else felt like I was in rhythm.”

Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College.

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