BALTIMORE—Nearly three years after the Orioles made him the top pick in the 2019 draft, Adley Rutschman has made it to Baltimore. The Orioles purchased his contract on Saturday morning, and he’s catching and batting sixth in Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay.
“I’d say as excited as I could be right now,” Rutschman said. “This is probably about the coolest thing, coolest moment I’ve had so far. I’m really excited for it.”
A video of Triple-A Norfolk manager Buck Britton calling Rutschman into the office, and slowly telling him the news and being congratulated by his teammates went viral earlier in the day.
“It was unbelievable,” Rutschman said. “That’s really what it’s all about, the people that you have around you, the teammates that you have, the people who are able to share those moments with you makes everything that much better.”
Rutschman said that the Tides stayed in their clubhouse in Charlotte after their win on Friday night for about 90 minutes to watch the Orioles defeat the Rays, 8-6, in 13 innings.
“They sold it pretty good,” Rutschman said. “I thought, ‘If at any time it would have been, it would have been pretty quick after the game.’ They waited a while afterwards. I didn’t have too many suspicions.”
Rutschman was advised by his family and friends and manager Brandon Hyde to savor this day.
“There’s so much pressure put on him,” Hyde said. “And so much anticipation that I just want him to relax and play the game like he did in high school. I understand that that’s not realistic. I don’t want him to put too much pressure on himself. I talked to him about enjoying the day. With all the hoopla that’s going into it, I’ve seen it before. He’s a really mature guy. There’s so much anticipation. It’s a day he’s never going to forget. I want him to enjoy it as much as he can.”
Hyde said that Rutschman will catch and occasionally be the designated hitter, but won’t play first base except in an emergency.
“It’s exciting to have Adley here,” Hyde said. “He’s extremely excited and should be It’s great for the city of Baltimore and the fan base.”
Hyde knows expectations are high.
“It’s a 24-year-old kid that got to the big leagues and is extremely talented,” he said. “Some guys come up and do well right away and some guys don’t and have great careers. This is going to be four or five at-bats tonight of thousands he’s going to have in his career, and I just want him to enjoy the moment. I think the fans are going to embrace how hard he plays, his personality, what kind of guy he is.
“He’s going to be a good player. His personality and what kind of guy he is … whether that’s going to showcase tonight or in this next week, who knows? He’s going to be a good player for a long time.”
Because there wasn’t a minor league season in 2020 because of the pandemic, Rutschman’s arrival was likely delayed. In March, he strained a right triceps muscle before major league spring training began, costing him a chance to start the season with the club.
“I think it’s hard to not have those questions about when it’s going to happen,” Rutschman said. “From the moment you’re drafted, when you’re in high school, whatever it is, I think you’re always looking forward to the opportunity, hoping it happens, The fact that it’s here now, is crazy, just trying to take it in.”
Rutschman has played 179 minor league games and recognizes that he has a lot to learn offensively and defensively. He’s not sure which is going to be more difficult.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I guess I’ll learn as I go and I’ll have a better answer for you, hopefully in a couple of weeks. I think it’s going to be a learning process on both sides and I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes.”
Hyde realizes the transition from the minors to the majors can be difficult, even for someone with Rutschman’s talent.
“I just want him to play,” he said. “I know he’s going to do a good job behind the plate. Hitting in the big leagues is extremely difficult, especially as a young player right now. I want him to take as good at-bats as possible, stay within yourself, let your athletic ability take over.
“I’m not putting any sort of expectations on him offensively. There’s a learning curve defensively, too. Now, you’re calling games against major league lineups. The game can speed up on you, no matter who you are. A young player, it’s not easy in this league, especially behind the plate, and if you’re asked to produce offensively as well. I’m trying to put zero expectations and just go play, and I want him to learn from each game.”
Rutschman will catch another prospect, Kyle Bradish, on Saturday night.
“It was fun to write the lineup out today,” Hyde said. “It felt good to see so many young, talented guys that we have hopes for and that are going to be learning together at the major league level early on in their careers to be in there and to be more balanced, too, a more balanced lineup. It was a lot of fun to write.”
Means avoids arbitration: Starting pitcher John Means, who had Tommy John surgery on April 27th, has settled his arbitration case with the Orioles. The left-hander agreed to a two-year contract. He’ll be paid $2.95 million this season and $2.975 million in 2023.
Means had been scheduled for a hearing on May 26th.
News of Means’ contract was first reported by The Athletic and confirmed by an industry source.
Mountcastle returns: The Orioles reinstated first baseman Ryan Mountcastle from the 10-day injured list. He’d been out because of a left wrist injury. He’ll bat fifth, in front of Rutschman, on Saturday night.
Needing a fresh arm, the Orioles recalled right-hander Mike Baumann from Norfolk and optioned right-hander Logan Gillaspie and left-hander Nick Vespi to Norfolk. Gillaspie’s move was made after Friday’s game.
Gillaspie threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings, and Vespi, who won Friday’s 13-inning game, pitched two scoreless innings in his debut.
Baumann was 1-2 with a 6.14 ERA in five games with the Orioles earlier this season.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB