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Orioles place Cedric Mullins on IL with groin injury, sign former Yankee Aaron Hicks

Baltimore’s table-setter left Monday’s game against the Cleveland Guardians after pulling up lame while running to first.

Cedric Mullins of the Baltimore Orioles jogs back to the dugout after the end of the top of the inning against the Texas Rangers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 26, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

A day after he was forced to exit Monday’s game against the Cleveland Guardians, the Baltimore Orioles have put center fielder Cedric Mullins on the 10-day IL with what’s being called a right groin strain.

In a corresponding move, the team has signed former New York Yankees pariah Aaron Hicks to a Major League contract. Mullins suffered the injury in the bottom of the eighth inning on Monday, when he pulled up lame just before reaching first base. There was immediate concern that the outfielder would require an IL stint, and sure enough, an MRI confirmed as much on Tuesday morning. There’s no word yet on the severity of the strain, but even if it’s relatively mild, it’s safe to assume that Mullins will be on the shelf for at least a couple of weeks.

It’s a big blow to an O’s team that had gotten off to a terrific start this year, entering play on Tuesday at 34-20 — in control of the top AL Wild Card spot and just four games back of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East despite Tampa’s historically hot start. Mullins has been a big reason for that success, slashing a healthy .263/.356/.479 with eight homers and 13 steals over 53 games spent mostly in the leadoff spot.

It would be tough for anyone to replace that production, but signing Hicks as a short-term solution is a particularly puzzling move; the outfielder was basically run out of town by a New York team very much in need of outfielders after posting a woeful .524 OPS and making several mental mistakes on the bases and in the field. The switch-hitter was a useful player not so long ago, though, hitting .247/.362/.457 from 2017 to 2020 and even garnering some down-ballot MVP votes in 2018, so the O’s have to be figuring that a change of scenery could help the 33-year-old regain his confidence at the plate. Plus, Baltimore doesn’t have a ton of better options at the moment: Its top two Minor League outfielders, Kyle Stowers and top prospect Colton Cowser, are themselves on the IL right now, though Cowser — who’s tore up Triple-A this year and has a very bright future — figures to be back at some point in the next few days. It could be that Hicks is just a stopgap until Cowser can be called up.