Two of the most intriguing prospects in the Orioles’ system are in their summer training player pool. To the disappointment of many fans, catcher Adley Rutschman and infielder/outfielder Ryan Mountcastle aren’t going to begin the 60-game 2020 season with the Orioles.
There was never any chance that Rutschman, last year’s overall top draft choice, was going to play for the Orioles this year. Despite a stellar collegiate record at Oregon State, Rutschman, 22, has played just 37 professional games and was added to the major league camp to learn as much as he could.
Rutschman and Mountcastle will be going to the Orioles’ alternate camp at Bowie, which opens on Thursday.
Both were added to the Orioles’ 60-man player pool last week and have played in intrasquad games.
“I want to be playing,” Rutschman said during a video conference call on Monday.
“The biggest thing for me is getting live at-bats and trying to improve as much as I can right now without that adrenaline and getting the juices flowing. Right now, being at Camden Yards, getting to hit on a big league field, there’s definitely adrenaline going on right now.”
Rutschman had been to the ballpark when he signed but this was his first time in an Orioles uniform.
“When you get on a big league field for the first time and you’re hitting off some of the big league guys, it’s definitely an adrenaline rush for me, being my first time here.
“Being able to stand in in the box, see big league arms, take it in for the first time, it’s something you never get back. It reminds you of the first time I stood in at the College World Series, the first time I stood in at a college stadium with the [Oregon State] Beavers.”
Had the season started on time, Rutschman might have started the season at High-A Frederick and possibly moved on to Double-A Bowie, but there was no chance he was going to play for the Orioles this year.
“You never get that first time back,” Rutschman said. “I’m just hoping there’s going to be another first time at every single stadium whenever that is, just to have that first feeling, it’s unbelievable. It’s so exciting.”
Manager Brandon Hyde doesn’t want to mislead fans who want to see Rutschman with the Orioles without much minor league experience.
“It’s Adley Rutschman’s first full year, and he’s not even getting it,” Hyde said. “That’s got to be a loss in development time, so I’m not going to speculate on when he’s going to make his major league debut or when that’s going to be.”
Mountcastle, 23, hoped to begin 2020 with the Orioles, but the team said it was sending him down to try to master left field, another new position. He has been an infielder.
“I think he had a good year in Triple-A last year [25 home runs, 83 RBIs and a .312 average] and put himself on the map to compete for a job this year,” Hyde said. “He just needs the reps defensively. We moved him around quite a bit. Trying to get him comfortable in left field. He looks a lot better. I like the work he’s been putting in out there, and doing a nice job. I think he’s close.”
Mountcastle acknowledged that he was disappointednot be included on the first list of players to be sent to Camden Yards for training.
“They communicated with me, I think, right before all the names came out, and said I was going to the alternate site,” Mountcastle said. “A little upset, but at the end of the day, they sent me down to Triple-A in the spring.”
Mountcastle was named the Orioles’ top position player in the minor leagues last year as well as the International League’s Most Valuable Player.
Drafted in 2015, Mountcastle has played at each minor league level and is looking to make his major league debut in 2020
“That’s what I’m working towards,” Mountcastle said. “I really hope I get a shot this year, and I’m going to keep working hard to make that dream come true.
“I worked my butt off my entire life just to be a big leaguer, and I want to be able to be up there and help the team win. I think I bring enough to the table to do that, and I hope I get that call this year.”
Mountcastle was able to work out near his Central Florida home during the shutdown that began on March 12 because of Covid-19. Rutschman used the time to participate in some of the Zoom meetings for Orioles minor league players.
Rutschman took some yoga lessons, meditation classes, participated in the team’s book club and even brushed up on his cooking. He enjoyed the healthy options, including baked salmon and pesto chicken.
Most of all, though, he’s enjoying the taste of major league life—even for a few days.
“Just the opportunity to be at a big league ballpark with big league guys, much like at spring training,” Rutschman said. “It’s a tremendous learning opportunity, just being able to be with all the coaches. From a catching standpoint, catching big league pitchers, seeing what they like to do. It’s all been beneficial.”
Intrasquad recap: Tommy Milone pitched five scoreless innings as the orange jersey Orioles beat the white jersey Orioles, 3-0, on Monday night.
Chris Davis, who singled through the infield shift, scored the first run after Renato Nunez singled him to third and DJ Stewart hit into a double play.
The run was scored against Thomas Eshelman, who pitched five innings.
In the sixth, Hector Velázquez allowed a double by centerfielder Austin Hays and a triple by shortstop José Iglesias. The ball was misplayed by Mountcastle in left, who slipped trying to play it. Davis’ single to left scored Iglesias.
Paul Fry pitched the sixth inning in relief of Milone.
Three major league umpires worked the game.
Roster moves: The Orioles added right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer to their player pool. He’ll report to the alternate site in Bowie. Right-hander Hector Velazquez has been optioned to the Bowie alternate site. Infirlder Richie Martin, who will undergo surgery on Wednesday to repair a broken bone in his right wrist, has been placed on the 60-day injured list and removed from the player pool, which now stands at 53.