One day, the idea that Adley Rutschman stood in the box to face live pitching at Camden Yards will be just a footnote. But for the moment it is a thrill, even without fans in the stands and only the kind of bragging rights that come with intrasquad competition on
One day, the idea that Adley Rutschman stood in the box to face live pitching at Camden Yards will be just a footnote. But for the moment it is a thrill, even without fans in the stands and only the kind of bragging rights that come with intrasquad competition on the line.
“Right now, being at Camden Yards being able to hit on a big league field, there is definitely adrenaline going on,” Rutschman said. “To stand in the box and face big league arms and take it in for the first time, it’s something you never get back. It reminds me of the first time I stood in at the College World Series, the first time I stood in in a college stadium. You never get that first time back. I hope there will be another first time at every single stadium, whenever that is. But to have that first feeling, it’s unbelievable. It’s so exciting and you never get it back.”
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Arriving at Summer Camp as part of the Orioles' player pool Friday, Rutschman participated in his first intrasquad action the following night, drawing two walks (including one against Hunter Harvey) under the lights at Oriole Park. He’s spent his afternoons largely the same way he did early this spring, catching bullpens, doing cage work and, Baltimore hopes, soaking up as much as he can from the big leaguers in camp.
Even though it’s a temporary apprenticeship for their top prospect -- Rutschman is expected to be sent to the alternate training site in Bowie, Md., when it opens later this week -- the Orioles see added value in getting their hands on Rutschman during a summer devoid of competitive games. And he is relishing it.
“I want to be playing. There is that aspect of it, and I can dwell on that as much as I’d like to. But the biggest thing for me is to focus on getting live at-bats and improving as much as I can right now,” Rutschman said. “I think the opportunity to be in a big league ballpark with big league guys, just like Spring Training, is a tremendous learning opportunity for me. Catching big league guys, seeing what they like to do -- it’s all been beneficial. I am just excited to be here and learn from everybody around me.”
After the baseball world shut down, Rutschman returned to his offseason home in Washington state to endure the COVID-19 pandemic. To keep their Minor League players engaged during the pause, the Orioles' player development department curated yoga sessions, mindfulness meetings, meditation and cooking classes on Zoom, in addition to providing weight-training programs. Rutschman said his favorites were the group cooking sessions, where he learned to make baked salmon and pesto chicken.
“We were trying to stay on the healthier side,” he said. "The cooking classes were awesome, man. Those were a fun time. There were a lot of people on the calls and seeing what other people can do not in a baseball setting was really funny.”
Rutschman also had time to bleach his hair blond -- “I’ve definitely gotten lot of comments about it,” he said -- and simulate baseball activity on his own, often sending videos of drills he was working on from Spring Training to Orioles catching coordinator Tim Cossins during the layoff. Having him around this week despite the lost development time is some consolation for the O's, who were hoping Rutschman might advance as far as Double-A in his first full season in pro ball. He reached Class A Delmarva in 2019 after Baltimore selected him first overall last June.
“He looks great,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Swinging the bat really well. He’s been catching some Major League pitching the last couple of days, and he does it easy. He’s done a nice job of putting a lot of work and time in these past few months. He’s in shape and ready to go, so it’s been fun watching him the last couple of games.”
Is it a preview of things to come? Hyde tossed cold water on the idea of Rutschman debuting in the Majors this season, and in truth, the O’s are highly unlikely to start his service clock for part of a 60-game sprint given their place on the competitive spectrum. But it’s also true that he’ll be just a phone call away in Bowie all summer.
“I have no idea and it’s not really up to me,” Rutschman said. “I am just here to do the best I can and get better every day. Whatever comes from that is meant to be. I’m just happy to be here right now.”
Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.