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Orioles’ Cedric Mullins reveals he battled Crohn’s disease during All-Star season

NATHAN RUIZ
Baltimore Sun (TNS)
Baltimore Orioles' Cedric Mullins gestures after hitting a solo home run off Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Anthony Kay during the seventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The story of Cedric Mullins’ 2021 season, in which he made the American League All-Star team two years after the Baltimore Orioles demoted him to Double-A, has somehow become even more remarkable.

In a video posted Wednesday from MLB Players Media, Mullins revealed he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease after undergoing colon surgery last offseason. Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract and could cause an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Mullins, 27, began experiencing symptoms in the spring of 2020, around the same time teammate Trey Mancini underwent surgery for what was eventually diagnosed as stage 3 colon cancer. Mullins initially thought he was suffering from food poisoning, but the pain lingered in the coming weeks.

“Using the bathroom and things of that nature felt uncomfortable. I was like, ‘OK, that’s not normal,” Mullins said in the video. “I was kind of concerned because we had just gotten the word that Trey was going to be undergoing chemotherapy. There was a lot of worry.”

When the 2020 season began in late July amid the coronavirus pandemic, Mullins made Baltimore’s Opening Day roster, a return to the majors after he struggled as the Orioles’ starting center fielder to begin 2019. He played solidly, earning more time on the field as the season went on, but he did so while undergoing tests and taking antibiotics.

At the end of the season, doctors told him, “I had gotten to the point infection-wise that I should have been keeled over in pain and surgery’s kind of a must at this point,” Mullins said.

In November 2020, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease after having 10-15 centimeters of intestine surgically removed. In the wake of the procedure, Mullins had an infection that needed to be drained, and he lost 20 pounds in the process.

Mullins worried whether he would be ready for the start of the season, but having abandoned switch-hitting, he starred from the campaign’s opening weekend. He was Baltimore’s top performer throughout the year, eventually serving as the AL’s starting center fielder in the All-Star Game. Becoming the first player in Orioles history to record 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same season, Mullins also earned Most Valuable Oriole honors and a Silver Slugger award while finishing 10th in AL Most Valuable Player voting.

Mullins now hopes to be an advocate for awareness, much like Mancini, who returned after missing the 2020 season undergoing treatment to earn 2021′s AL comeback player honors from both the league and the players; Mullins was a finalist in player voting.

“I think it’s more important for people to not be afraid to get checked out,” Mullins said. “That’s something that I’ve always had a hard time doing. That tough-guy mentality, ‘It’s just a little bruise, it’s not a big deal,’ and we constantly do it.”