ABERDEEN-On a day when the Orioles are hoping this is the first step in a long and successful career in orange and black, Adley Rutschman is just looking forward to playing baseball.
The No.1 overall pick has had to wait a little longer than he expected to make his minor league debut because a bout of mononucleosis. He will tonight for the Aberdeen IronBirds against the Hudson Valley Renegades.
“I’m really excited to get going,” Rutschman said before Saturday’s game. “I just got done rehabbing and now I get to play. It’s exciting.”
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for the former Oregon State catcher since being drafted on June 4 and becoming the face of the Orioles’ rebuild. On June 24, he signed for a record $8.1 million bonus, and was introduced to the crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards the next night. After recovering from mono, he was sent to the Gulf Coast League. He homered in his third at-bat and went 3-for-14 (.214) with one home run, two RBIs and a stolen base in five games.
“We’ve been planning this for a while,” IronBirds manager Kevin Bradshaw said. “But having a player like him is a big thrill. As a coaching staff we’re excited to have him.”
Rutschman will bat second on Saturday night for the Orioles’ short-season Single-A affiliate, and instead of playing behind the plate, will be the designated hitter. Bradshaw said he likes to use players at DH when they first arrive at Aberdeen, just to help get them at-bats and adjust to the new level.
In Rutschman’s case, it also helps make his debut less stressful, since he was playing in Sarasota for the GCL team on Friday before flying to Maryland.
“It looks like he’s a little tired,” Bradshaw said. “We’re just trying to keep it easy on him.”
It can be a lot for the players on the team when a new teammate with this much hype arrives but Rutschman hasn’t had any difficulties with his fellow IronBirds so far. Eighteen of the 31 players on the current IronBirds roster were also drafted in 2019, including three Stanford players he played against multiple times during Pac-12 play at Oregon State.
“I know a couple of the guys here, and the ones I’ve met so far have been great,” Rutschman said about his new teammates. “So, I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”
Rutschman is used to being the center of attention after a stellar career with the Beavers, but this is a whole different experience. Even with the rollercoaster that’s been this past 7 1/2 weeks, he’s still just trying to take it one step at a time while savoring the moment.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Rutschman said. “Obviously, you only go through this experience once so I’m just trying to go out and do the best I can do.”