SARASOTA—It’s the first full spring training for Adley Rutschman, and he’s benefiting from it. A year ago, Rutschman suffered a right triceps injury just before the lockout ended that delayed the start of his major league career until May 21st.
It didn’t stop Rutschman from quickly learning the Orioles pitching staff.
“Last year when he came to us, there were so many pitchers he hadn’t caught before,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said.
“He had to get to know, especially the relievers really quickly, Jordan Lyles really quickly and how advanced he is, he was able to make that transition a lot faster than most people, but this year [he’s] able to know our pitching staff extremely well.”
Rutschman hit .254 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs and an .806 OPS, and he finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, and should do much better thanks to the prep time received hin his first full spring training.
“This is the first real full normal spring training that I’ve been a part of,” Rutschman said. “So far, it’s been really good. You can just feel the buildup as things go along, getting to know guys more and more, also having caught guys from last year and building on that.”
Rutschman gets a full six weeks to familiarize himself with Kyle Gibson and Cole Irvin, two experienced veterans new to the Orioles.
“That’s kind of a learning process right now,” Rutschman said. “I’m learning what they want to throw, how they like to attack guys. That way we’re getting on the same wavelength as we go into the season.
“Guys, they’re going to shake off sometimes when they don’t want to throw something. We’re trying to put together the best gameplan. We’ll go through meetings before we face teams. The plan will change. The better I know them, the easier it becomes.”
According to Irvin, Rutschman has been successful.
“As soon as you get to pro ball, you’re put through the wringer about calling your own game,” Irvin said. “He does a really good job of handling it and managing it and getting to know the guys on the bump. I feel like he’s got a really good idea of how to call a game, how the plate moves according to the batter, how a batter likes to set up and playing against us. He’s been great to work with.”
After Gibson signed with the Orioles in December, he mentioned working with Rutschman as a reason he came to Baltimore.
“Coming from a guy that I respect as much as I do him, it means a lot,” Rutschman said. “It’s very encouraging and makes me want to work harder to continue to be the best catcher and teammate I can be.”
Rutschman got to catch Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Austin Voth and Tyler Wells, all competing for starting spots as well as Grayson Rodriguez, who Rutschman has worked with since they were both at Single-A Delmarva late in the 2019 season.
“He’s the guy I’ve known and caught for the last four or five years now,” Rutschman said. “He’s just doing his thing, and I’m glad to see that he’s healthy and again and out there and enjoying pitching. I’m excited to see what he does this year.
Rutschman caught Rodriguez in his first start on March 2nd against Detroit in Lakeland, but didn’t catch him on Tuesday against Minnesota in Fort Myers. In both starts, Rodriguez got to face lineups stacked with veterans, something that wouldn’t happen if his starts had been at home. Rutschman doesn’t know if that will benefit him, though Rodriguez noted after his Tuesday start that he thought it would help.
“You don’t know until you know. I’m excited to see what he does this year and I have all the confidence in the world in him. I’m just here to help him any way I can,” Rutschman said.
Last season, the Orioles signed veteran Robinson Chirinos to mentor Rutschman. In December, they acquired James McCann from the New York Mets for the same role.
“I think that was a little bit of our mindset going into this offseason,” Hyde said. “It worked so well with him and Robbie last year and let’s remember that Adley still hasn’t caught a full season. To have a veteran with him, that’s important, but it also has to be the right type of veteran. Makeup standpoint with Robbie last year and McCann this year, two great guys.”
Question time: We’ll do a spring training mailbag next week. You can email your questions to: [email protected].