Adley Rutschman’s long wait is over. After a season without minor league baseball because of the pandemic, the Orioles’ top prospect and one of the highest ranked in the game, is ready to return to action.
Rutschman, who last played for Low-A Delmarva in September 2019, will be the starting catcher for the Double-A Bowie Baysox on Tuesday night in Altoona.
“It feels like a big part of my life was missing,” Rutschman, 23, said on Monday in a video conference call. “It just makes you appreciate it that much more. I think the fact that now you go out on a nightly basis, get four [at-bats] and catch someone, call a game, and get your adrenaline going, that means a lot.
“It’s definitely going to help you grow as a baseball player, just trying to enjoy that every day and get better.”
Since the Orioles made Rutschman the overall top pick in the June 2019 draft, he has played 37 professional games—at Gulf Coast, Aberdeen and Delmarva.
Rutschman spent the first few weeks of spring training in 2020 with the Orioles before being sent to minor league camp six days before the pandemic halted spring training and baseball until July.
He spent nearly three months at summer camp with the Orioles at the Bowie alternate training site, then went to the Instructional League in Sarasota before spring training this year.
“Two years of lifting, development, hitting work and work behind the plate,” Rutschman said. “I definitely feel like I’m a better individual and a better player than I was then. Everything that comes with getting older and sticking with my process has me feeling a lot more confident than I did two years ago.”
Rutschman is one of the prime reasons the Orioles’ farm system is rated as high as No. 5 by MLB Pipeline.
“He knows that there’s a lot expected of him,” Bowie manager Buck Britton said. “I think he’s up for the challenge. He’s not going to let the lack of hard work or the drive affect him in any way. I don’t think he’s the type of guy who’s going to be absorbed in all that.”
Britton has been around players who had been heavily publicized. He was in the Orioles’ system when Manny Machado was coming up.
“I was never that hyped,” Britton said. “It was always, Zack’s brother coming up. That was my hype.”
Britton has been impressed by Rutschman.
“There’s a lot of pressure on those guys, obviously,” Britton said. “Adley knows that. This is a guy that works harder than anybody I’ve seen, especially somebody who’s been picked that high. A lot of times, you have to tell Adley to pump the brakes, to slow down, but this guy’s a worker and he’s a natural-born leader. I’m really excited to see him go through a season.
”Obviously, his ability just jumps off the chart, offensively and behind the plate. I think it’s a matter of getting him into games, in the professional atmosphere. He didn’t play much after being drafted, and he didn’t play in games last year, per se. He did go through the alternate site. I’m excited to see this guy when the lights go on. He’s got a chance to be a really, really exciting player for the Orioles for a long time.”
Rutschman will be catching a talented pitching staff with the Baysox. On Tuesday night, DL Hall, who was the Orioles’ top pick in 2017, will start against the Curve. Gray Fenter, who was returned to the Orioles from the Chicago Cubs after being selected in December’s Rule 5 draft, will follow.
“He makes average pitchers look really good,” Hall said. “That’s a huge thing to have somebody back there that makes you really comfortable on the mound and gives you confidence just with his body language. It’s been great getting to work with him and I’m excited to have him behind the plate for me this year.”
Had there been a minor league season in 2020, Rutschman would have started at High-A, which was then in Frederick. Now, he’s just two steps away from the major leagues, where he’s likely to be joined by Hall and Grayson Rodriguez, the Orioles’ top pick in 2018, whom he caught with the Shorebirds and at the alternate site last summer.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Rutschman said. “Looking to the future, hopefully you get to the point to where you get to work with those guys at the big-league level. It’s an exciting thing to think about for me, and for those guys as well. A lot of our topics of conversation are about how excited we are to continue to help the Orioles and try and do our best to get there, hopefully win a World Series together, and what that would look like and all the potential ahead.”
Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions later this week. You may leave yours in the comment box below or email them to: [email protected].