BALTIMORE—Adley Rutschman will begin his professional career by going to the Orioles’ spring training headquarters in Sarasota, Fla.
General manager Mike Elias says that Rutschman, who won a slew of awards as a star switch-hitting catcher at Oregon State, will participate in several more awards ceremonies this week before he’s sent to Sarasota and join the Gulf Coast League team.
“it will be kind of a slow on-boarding process, get him going after the layoff he’s had and I expect that he will shortly thereafter join the Aberdeen Ironbirds of the New York-Penn League and start his climb through our minor league ladder,” Elias said.
Elias said that Rutschman would catch “part-time” this summer and would also play first base and be a designated hitter and he preferred to start him at a lower level.
“Every player is different,” Elias said. “Every first-round pick is different. Certainly we don’t have to start him there if we don’t want to. I always believe in, when in doubt, start them at the lower level because it’s very easy to transfer them if they’re performing well.”
Rutschman, who was introduced in a Tuesday afternoon news conference, said he’s gotten a chance to learn a little about Baltimore, walk around the ballpark and meet some fans over the past few days.
“Everyone’s very excited about this and so am I,” Rutschman said. “That motivates me.”
“This is a big decision for our organization,” Elias said. “We said along this is probably the biggest decision that this organization is going to make this year, and we took it very seriously.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome. Having him join our organization and be a part of the process that we’re going through to take this organization back to where it belongs. We are in a phase right now where we’re looking for building blocks, and I think by signing Adley Rutschman today, we found a very big piece.”
Rutschman signed for a reported $8.1 million bonus, a record. He said he had few plans for the bonus money, noting that he’s comfortable driving a Honda Civic.
Elias said that the process, which took three weeks from the time Rutschman was drafted first overall to the Monday signing, went smoothly.
“We all arrived at something that we’re very pleased about, very excited about,” Elias said. “He’s done a lot in his life and his career so far to earn this opportunity, and I’m very confident he’s going to seize it and take it going forward to great places.”
Rutschman felt there was much pressure on him all year to live up to the talk about him being the top pick.
“I think I was able to handle the pressure pretty well all year,” Rutschman said. “It’s basically about sticking to the process.”
Elias feels that this draft will help the Orioles elevate the talent level in the organization.
“Having the number one pick in the draft is a special opportunity,” Elias said. “I think the important thing for us is that this doesn’t start and end here.”
Elias is primed for the International signing period, which begins on July 2. He’s predicted the Orioles will be active in that market.
“We’ve got all kinds of avenues to taking our system and our organization where we want it to go,” Elias said. “To have a player of his caliber that I don’t think is necessarily available every year in the draft is big, big for us. We’re excited to get him going, but he’s one part of this effort.”
Brandon Verley, the Orioles scout, who handles the Pacific Northwest said that some scouts from other teams think that Rutschman could play in the major leagues today.
“There’s lot of guys that think he could play there right now,” Verley said. “You could put him there right now if you wanted. Obviously the learning curve would be a little tougher…as quickly as Mike and the guys at the top are ready to get him in there, he’ll be ready to answer the call.’
Verley, who’s worked for the Orioles since 2010, said that he’d been watching Rutschman for the past five years, and the catcher has been waiting for what seems like quite a while.
“It’s been a long journey to get here,” Rutschman said. “To be a part of the building process that’s going on right now, I’m truly humbled to be a part of that.”
The Orioles are reportedly close to signing Gunnar Henderson, an Alabama high school shortstop, who was chosen 41st in the draft. The only other unsigned player in the top 10 is LSU outfielder Zach Watson, chosen in the third round. They’ve signed 30 of the 41 picks.
“I think this draft has injected a lot of talent to the system,” Elias said.
“It’s important to remember that other teams are drafting, too and signing international players, too. We’re not just racing against ourselves. This is a very competitive business, but I think we’ve done well. I think these guys are going to go out and play well over the next few years.”