Rutschman tallies two doubles, four hits for Aberdeen

May 1st, 2022

Prior to his current rehab stint for a right triceps strain, Adley Rutschman hadn’t played in A-ball since his professional debut season in 2019. Four games in, and his second tour of High-A is going as expected.

The No. 2 prospect in baseball tallied four hits -- all from the left side -- in five trips to the plate to raise his batting average to .462. Rutschman smashed two doubles and scored a run as Aberdeen’s designated hitter in its 6-4 win over Jersey Shore on Saturday night.

“I’m feeling great. Just excited to be back," said Rutschman over the phone after the game. “It’s crucial to get back in the swing of things, be able to see pitches, get your timing, and just be able to have competitive ABs again in game situations.”

It was Rutschman’s first game with four-or-more hits since his five-hit night on Aug. 19, 2019, also for Aberdeen. He needed to see 16 pitches to reach base safely four times, proving his stint at High-A should be short-lived.

“All of it really is dictated just on how the rehab is going, how I’m feeling," said Rutschman. “The ultimate goal is to be in the big leagues and have an impact on a team. Every day I’m shooting for that.”

Donning the number 47 in the IronBirds' powder blue uniforms, Rutschman smoked a double down the right-field line in an 0-2 count in his first at-bat of the evening. The top Orioles prospect showed off his wheels on his second extra-base hit, hustling into second on a hard-hit ground ball to right-center field after falling into another 0-2 count.

In the fourth inning, Rutschman singled past a diving effort from shortstop Casey Martin and advanced to second on a wild pitch. He scored two batters later on Jacob Teter’s RBI single, pushing Aberdeen’s lead to three runs.

In the sixth inning, the switch-hitter rocketed a ball up the middle in his fourth at-bat for a single, his final hit of the game. Rutschman batted again in the bottom of the eighth and battled back from an 0-2 count to a full count before grounding out to shortstop, ending his most productive night of the season to date.

Rutschman was primed to start the season at Triple-A Norfolk after swatting four doubles in Spring Training, but his right triceps sprain delayed his start by a couple of weeks. After making his debut on Tuesday, the 24-year-old is 6-for-13 with three doubles and a .462/.533/.692 slash line.

“When you’re getting live ABs down in Florida, it’s good, but there’s something different about in-game at-bats," said Rutschman. “Just seeing different [pitch] shapes come in, they’ve got some guys who got velocity on their team who throw hard offspeed, and I think just being able to see that is a good thing.”

In his four games for Aberdeen, Rutschman has caught twice and DH'd twice. In his 12 innings behind the plate so far, his injury has shown no signs of hampering him. He's taking the opportunity to connect with players in the lower levels of the Orioles' system, feeding into the organizational culture Baltimore is trying to build with its next wave of young talent.

“I caught D.L. [Hall] on Friday and felt good, felt like we were back to last year again, felt back in rhythm," said Rutschman. "I know the Orioles have been trying to implement a culture shift throughout the system so to come to High-A and see that that culture is still here, you see that pattern forming which I think is a phenomenal thing.”

The No. 1 overall pick out of Oregon State in the 2019 Draft dominated in his first full season last year, smashing 23 homers and 25 doubles with a .397 OBP and a .899 OPS. Rutschman is known for his patient approach at the plate; he collected 79 walks to 90 strikeouts in 543 plate appearances at Double-A and Triple-A.

Rutschman is expected to make his Major League debut at some point this season and was pushing for a spot on the Opening Day roster before his injury. The Orioles have no reason to rush his return, but if the slugging catcher keeps hitting as he has in his first four games, he may force their hand this summer. Despite the setback, he's not taking any of his days in the Minors for granted.

"I try to enjoy those moments as much as I can, just because if I eventually do make it to the big leagues and have an impact there, I want to look back on my Minor League experience and say that I never took anything for granted," said Rutschman. "That I was present in all those moments and I wasn’t so caught up in where I wanted to be that I forgot where I was at that moment."