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Rutschman homers in his professional debut

@JoeTrezz
July 20, 2019

BALTIMORE -- One game in, Adley Rutschman's pro career is already off and rolling. And in a big way. Nearly seven weeks after the Orioles made him their second No. 1 overall pick in franchise history, Rutschman homered while making his professional debut for one of the club's Gulf Coast

BALTIMORE -- One game in, Adley Rutschman's pro career is already off and rolling. And in a big way.

Nearly seven weeks after the Orioles made him their second No. 1 overall pick in franchise history, Rutschman homered while making his professional debut for one of the club's Gulf Coast League affiliates.

"It was a really cool feeling," Rutschman told MiLB.com. "Just to get that first one out of the way was huge."

Batting fifth and starting at designated hitter, Rutschman grounded out to short in his first at-bat, then homered two at-bats later before finishing the day 1-for-4. The GCL Orioles lost the game, 6-4, to the GCL Pirates in Bradenton, Fla.

But that was hardly the takeaway after footage of Rutschman's third at-bat circulated on Twitter, quickly making its way to Baltimore.

"Congratulations on No. 1," manager Brandon Hyde said. "Hopefully it's one of many ... not in the Gulf Coast League."

Rutschman, 21, won't be there long. The Orioles are targeting next weekend for Rutschman's debut with Class A Short-Season Aberdeen, where he'll join fellow top picks Kyle Stowers and Zach Wastson after catching a few games in the Gulf Coast League this week. The IronBirds will be finishing up a six-game homestand next week before hitting the road again July 30.

In Aberdeen, Rutschman was never expected to catch every day, the Orioles conscious of easing him in defensively with an eye toward Rutschman's long-term development. But given the circumstances leading to his debut, they may proceed even more cautiously. Though he's been signed for almost a month, the start of Rutschman's career had been delayed due to a bout of mononucleosis. Before Saturday, he hadn't played since June 1 for Oregon State.

"I was more excited more than anything," Rutschman told Milb.com on Saturday. "I couldn't keep still, because I knew I was going to play today. So last night, I was just bouncing all around the room. But I was excited for today, just excited to get going again. It's been awhile."

When could Karns return?

With Hyde and several members of the coaching staff looking on, injured right-hander Nate Karns completed a 20-pitch simulated game in Saturday afternoon's blistering heat at Oriole Park. One purpose of the session was for the big league staff to get eyes on Karns, who has battled arm issues for the better part of three years now.

This year, he's suffered multiple setbacks since landing on the injured list with right forearm tightness April 9, his season limited to four scoreless appearances early that month. He recently began his fourth rehab assignment, throwing two innings for Double-A Bowie on July 17.

Karns, 31, said his fastball velocity sat 89-91 mph in that outing, still down from the 92-94 range he and the Orioles desire. Karns said he'd likely make at least one more appearance with the Baysox with the hope of returning to the big club after next week's road trip.

"It's still a tick down from where I'd like to be and I'm not quite feeling myself, but you just have to keep working to get there. Today was another step."

A veteran of parts of six big league seasons, Karns is 16-12 with a 4.30 ERA over 67 career appearances, 56 starts, for the Nationals, Rays, Mariners, Royals and O's. He was Baltimore's lone free-agent signing this winter.

Roster move

With catcher Pedro Severino recovered enough from an illness to play, the Orioles optioned backstop Austin Wynns to Triple-A Norfolk and recalled Tanner Scott. Scott had been on the taxi squad while the club temporarily carried three catchers. He now returns for his third stint in the Orioles' 'pen.

Scott, who turns 25 on Monday, owned a 2.25 ERA in five outings at Triple-A Norfolk since his last optioning, and a 2.18 mark across his last 10 dating back to early June. The issue for Scott, though, has been translating those strong performances into big league success. He owns a 5.56 ERA and 5.6 BB/9 rate during his Major League career and has walked 8.7 batters per nine this season.

"Like with a lot of our bullpen guys, it's about command," Hyde said. "It's not about stuff. It's about being able to execute pitches at this level, getting aggressive and commanding the strike zone."

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.