Rutschman Q&A: 'Trying to stay present here'

May 16th, 2022

NORFOLK, Va. -- Adley Rutschman doesn’t know when he’ll be called up. He doesn’t know what his first Major League at-bat will be like, and he isn’t thinking too hard about it just yet. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Minor Leaguer more focused on the immediate present than MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 overall prospect.

Here’s what Rutschman does know. He’s fully healthy after a right triceps injury delayed the start to his season. He’s happy to be in a loaded Orioles system that includes current Triple-A Norfolk teammates and fellow Top 100 prospects Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall. And he enjoys the odd crab cake.

Before last Thursday’s MLB Pipeline Game of the Month between Norfolk and Memphis -- a contest in which he homered for the first time in a 2022 regular-season contest -- Pipeline checked in with the 24-year-old, switch-hitting catcher about the status of his triceps, his strategy for blocking out noise and his scouting report on Rodriguez ahead of his eight-strikeout start that day. (Note: Parts of this interview, which originally ran on Instagram Live, have been edited for clarity and length.)

Dykstra: First off, you’re back in Norfolk after spending some time here last year. What is it like to be here?

Rutschman: It's great to be back. It’s just a phenomenal team right now. Just exciting to be here, be playing, be healthy and just get back into the daily work and daily grind.

Dykstra: You mentioned being healthy. What is the status of the triceps right now?

Rutschman: We’re full go. I’m catching. It’s a full schedule.

Dykstra: What was that like going through that injury? What led to it?

Rutschman: Just getting injured. Just one of those things that are kind of unfortunate. Obviously, the training staff has always done a great job. I don't think it was anyone's fault. It just happens.

Dykstra: What was the progression coming back from that? You had stints at Aberdeen and Bowie before here.

Rutschman: Down in Florida, it was just a lot of rehab and pretty consistent in the daily schedule. But once I started up in Aberdeen and Bowie and back up to here, it's been kind of a whirlwind. Just go, go, go and trying to get back into it, get settled.

Dykstra: You mentioned catching is a big part of the process. You haven’t caught back-to-back days yet. [Note: Rutschman did just that Thursday and Friday after this conversation.] What plan is in place for that?

Rutschman: I think this week I'm catching four games, and I think that's good to go.

Dykstra: Now that you are in Norfolk one step away from the Majors, do you view your time here as proving health or Major League readiness?

Rutschman: My goal is to take everything day by day. Just trying to make sure that I'm putting in the work and getting back on my routine. I think any results that come because of that are what are meant to be. So I’m just trying to stay present here.

Dykstra: Speaking of taking it day by day, you’ve always had a knack for keeping things even-keeled, going back to your Oregon State days. What is your strategy to help block out the noise?

Rutschman: I think being around this group of guys is really what helps the most. You have a group of guys who are able to share their friendship, share their mentorship, and I think they help you keep that good mindset. It makes it fun to come to the field every single day, which is ultimately what's most important I think to help you stay present. And getting in that good work keeps you focused.

Dykstra: Picking up off that, you’re here with Grayson Rodriguez. What is it like catching him?

Rutschman: It's always great. It's always a blessing to be able to work with him. He's just such a great person. Obviously, his stuff on the mound, his competitiveness and just ability to work through stuff are always fun to watch. The fact that I'm able to catch him and be a part of that, it's always a great time.

Dykstra: Compared to when you were catching him last year, how has he grown the most?

Rutschman: I always think it's more from a mental side than anything, just because it's hard to get better stuff than what he had last year. So I think just his ability to move the ball around, know what he wants to do, attack hitters [has improved]. The maturity that he has now is impressive. Obviously, the work ethic has always been there. But with that kind of work ethic, it's just gonna continue to get better with him.

Dykstra: You, him, DL Hall -- you’re all here in Norfolk. There’s always going to be a lot of noise around you. You said you lean on those guys to block it out. How does that work exactly?

Rutschman: I think it's the interactions on a daily basis in the locker room, outside the field. It's talking about the most random of things. Get your mind off baseball for a little bit, and then when you need to lock in, lock in. I think everyone understands how each person goes about their business and how they want to do that. Having that kind of feel and understanding of each guy really helps you maximize each day.

Dykstra: What did you learn most about yourself in your first trip to Triple-A?

Rutschman: I think it's mostly the transition from Double-A to Triple-A and just getting accommodated to everything is a big jump. The faster you're able to do that, the more you're able to slow the game down from that initial excitement, nervousness and anxiety. That's the biggest step, I think. Because once you get settled in and you get ready to play, then it's daily basis, daily work. But that first initial part where you're trying to get over that hump, it's probably that most crucial, crucial turning point here in your mental and physical play.

Dykstra: Having been through that then, do you think knowing how to get over that nervousness will help you in your MLB debut or is there no way you can anticipate what it’ll be like getting to The Show for the first time?

Rutschman: I think it's like any big moment that you have. For me in college, [it was] that first game you play as a freshman or going to the College World Series for the first time or playing in the College World Series or making a jump from one level to the next. I think you understand as you go through some of that -- and then also talking to older guys [who have] been there and done that -- there is that the excitement that you have and that nervousness or anxiety.

You never get that first feeling back or that second feeling back. Each time you go about it, you know it becomes a little less and less. So treating that more as a blessing and excitement and understanding how special that moment and feeling is, I think makes you appreciate it more in the moment, instead of having that fear or anxiety be detrimental to your play.

Dykstra: So are you someone who envisions his first MLB at-bat? Or are you waiting for it to come to you without expectation?

Rutschman: I think just appreciating each moment is going to be the most important thing.

Dykstra: Well, Trey Mancini recently said of you in an story, “He’s ready. It’s just a matter of time.” What does that mean to you?

Rutschman: Trey, first off, is just an unbelievable guy. Great locker room guy. Everyone is going to say the utmost highest regards about him as a person and then as a player. But to hear him say something like that, it's obviously very special. It's one of those things you just go back and go ‘Wow, that is special.’ And so I think, obviously, thank you, and I'm glad he thinks that highly of me.

Dykstra: So if not for the injury, how close to the Majors do you think you would have been on Opening Day?

Rutschman: It's not up to me to decide, but I'm just going to continue to do my thing.

Dykstra: When you saw guys like Bobby Witt Jr., Julio Rodríguez, Spencer Torkelson make their Opening Day rosters, what were your thoughts on the number of top prospects in the bigs on that day, knowing you couldn’t be?

Rutschman: Honestly, all those guys are unbelievable guys, and I've been fortunate enough to be able to meet them and play with some of them. To see them go through that is exciting. Obviously, I'm just excited for them to see their careers and whatnot. I would have loved to have been healthy during that time. But everything comes as it does, and I don't have any regrets or anything because whatever happens happens.

Dykstra: Whenever you do get there, you could be joined by a few from this group in Norfolk, and there’s a good group behind you in Bowie too. What do the Orioles need to do to turn the corner on this thing and build around the youth movement?

Rutschman: Honestly, that's not really up for me to decide. I'm kind of just playing every day. My job is to create bonds with guys. I think the more conversations that we can all have with each other, the better it's going to be for everyone. I think just creating those friendships and mentoring each other, it's going to be the best part.

Dykstra: One thing that’s stood out to me is that your eye has been really good at the plate to start the season, what’s allowed you to stay fresh in terms of that?

Rutschman: I think it's just keeping the same intent on every single AB, whether you feel good or not at the plate. Just trying to make sure you're seeing the ball well and at least getting good pitches to hit and swinging at pitches in the zone. Give yourself a chance.

Dykstra: We got some questions on social media about this? The Orioles system is pretty packed together, so you know the area decently well. Are you a crab cakes guy now?

Rutschman: The only thing I'd say about it is I can eat a lot of most foods, but crab cakes are ones that are so rich in flavor. I have to order a smaller portion because it's kind of like lobster and some of those other foods. But it's definitely something I enjoy eating.