This story is excerpted from Zachary Silver’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to receive it regularly in your inbox.
Soon there will come a time when Adley Rutschman’s every swing isn’t received with so much hopeful excitement, where every nick of a foul tip isn’t accompanied by so much collective breath, where, as he put it, every game he participates in will feel more like that ‘normal, everyday team aspect’.
It’s not quite there yet.
Rutschman is indeed settling in and earning praise from across his clubhouse for the way he has handled both himself and the pressure a week in what Baltimore hopes will be a long and fruitful career. There are growing pains, as any young prospect will endure, but few individuals can carry the burden Rutschman can withstand, his teammates said.
“He’s the real deal in every way of who he is,” fellow prospect Kyle Stowers said this week. “You can just start with his performance on the field as a catcher and everything off the field. He’s just so stable, the same guy every day.”
Here are three things we learned during a week of Rutschmania:
Rutschman’s arrival was a shot in the Orioles’ proverbial arm, not just because of the signal it sent — that the phasers are slowly being turned toward competitiveness — but because of Rutschman’s vibrancy.
A limited number of pitchers on the O’s roster have pitched to Rutschman before, unaided by his lack of availability in Spring Training due to his right triceps strain. So when he rushes out to meet a pitcher at the foul line for a first bump in the last out of an inning, something he’s been doing for a long time in his time with baseball, it’s an enthusiasm that they’ll see in person for the first time. to see.
“Honestly, it’s quite a nice touch,” starter Tyler Wells told reporters in New York this week. “It definitely builds that bond between a pitcher and a catcher.”
It is a moment that captures the essence of Rutschman. Although he seemed like a well-known entity, much is still being discovered. A week of play was just a taste.
“How humble he is,” Robinson Chirinos, who took on the role of Rutschman’s mentor, said in New York. “I mean, number one in the Minor Leagues, [and] he doesn’t have that with him. He wants to get better and asks the questions. He came to me today and asked me how we attacked them in the past, and he wants to learn. That’s all you ask of a young player in the league, who wants to listen to people who’ve been here, done it before. And he does. That’s cool to see.”
That goes both ways. The first, how long he waited to make his debut — at age 24 and nearly three years after he was called up, already seen with almost pro-ready talent. Rutschman saw Bobby Witt Jr., who stood behind him as a high school student, and Spencer Torkelson, first overall the year after him, debut before doing this opening day.
And wouldn’t you know that Rutschman is more than eight months older than Juan Soto?
But perhaps the other aspect of his patience is more important.
Of the batters with at least 25 at bats on Saturday, only one sees more pitches on average than Rutschman. That happens to be another rookie in Cardinals utility man Brendan Donovan (4.65 pitches per at bat), but Rutschman is there, at 4.63.
Anthony Santander and Trey Mancini are the only qualified Orioles to see more than four pitches per at bat; Santander’s 4.33 run for Saturday tied for sixth place in baseball.
“Adley is someone who has always seen a lot of pitches in the Minor Leagues, always walked,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. “We also saw the opportunity in Spring Training to fall off the field. But you never know until you get here. I thought he would be a little nervous and overstimulated. His at bats were really good. He sees a lot of throws every at bat, he’s ready to hit, he’s now making throws outside the strike zone. Because of all that, the numbers will be there.”
Take last Sunday’s game — the rain-soaked walk-off over the Rays — for example. Against the background of the transition from designated batter to catcher due to late game shifts, Rutschman saw 29 pitches in his five at bats. He only smoked one. In his last at bat, a winning run at third base, he saw five pitches, all substitutions, as part of the eleven substitutions he saw in the afternoon.
He steered the last 100.1 mph into the right field warning lane, body skewed as if trying to get the ball out of the ballpark.
“That’s part of the process of being a young Major League player, of constantly having to adapt to what teams are trying to put you through,” Hyde said. “Once you start having success, then [opponents] try something different, and then you must make [adjustments]† They’re going through those growing pains like everyone else, but I’m really impressed with his at bats so far.”
3) He just started
Upon arrival at Fenway Park on Friday, a small group of Orioles gathered at Rutschman’s locker. On their part, for a sensational come-from-behind victory over the Red Sox, she entered the Green Monster and graced one of its sacred stanchions with their signatures, a tradition for visiting ball players.
It was one of those pinch moments for Rutschman, who was joined by Kyle Bradish, Ryan Mountcastle, Bryan Baker and others, and an instance that further enshrines him as a bona fide Major Leaguer. He has some major career firsts ahead of him. The most important on the list: his first homer (and his first double), his first RBI, his first base-stealer thrown out and his first shutout advanced.
It will all come in due time. It’s a good thing he’s patient.
“He treats, I mean, a pressure, if you will — of course a lot of us don’t like to use that word,” Stowers said. “But, I mean, he handles things, his business, so well. As the face of the remodel, you wouldn’t know he’s the first overall pick unless you already knew who Adley Rutschman was. He does not radiate that atmosphere. He’s just another guy who wants to do his best, be the best player he can be. And off the field he is one of my best friends. I really enjoy being around him and I’m learning so much from him as a person and a player.”