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The story behind Rutherford-Yelich connection

October 5, 2018

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Blake Rutherford, the No. 7 White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, will soon begin his offseason training program after taking part in this week's four-day mini-camp at Camelback Ranch.But Rutherford's offseason workout partner, Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich, won't need a note from home to explain why

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Blake Rutherford, the No. 7 White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, will soon begin his offseason training program after taking part in this week's four-day mini-camp at Camelback Ranch.
But Rutherford's offseason workout partner, Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich, won't need a note from home to explain why he might be slightly delayed.
"Hopefully, he's not there for a while," a smiling Rutherford said. "Hopefully, he can win a championship."
Rutherford, 21, works out with Yelich, 26, at Proactive Sports Performance in Westlake, Calif., in the offseason. Rutherford's brother, Cole, and Yelich's brother, Collin, played together on a travel team when they were 10 years old, and the two families were friendly, but Rutherford didn't get to know Yelich well at that point.
It wasn't until when Rutherford started working out at Proactive during his high school years that Yelich sort of took him under his wing. Each offseason, they grew closer and closer as they worked together, and they were able to bounce ideas off each other.
Yelich has transformed into the odds-on frontrunner for the 2018 National League Most Valuable Player. Rutherford, meanwhile, is coming off a .293 effort with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, featuring seven home runs, 78 RBIs, 41 extra-base hits and 15 stolen bases.
The seven homers represent Rutherford's career high in a single season as he continues to follow Yelich's lead in becoming a solid hitter first, knowing the power will arrive.
"He's always been known as a line-drive hitter, gap to gap. Hits the ball hard," Rutherford said of Yelich. "He said it's always easier to be a good hitter and be able to hit the ball hard to both fields.
"As I get stronger and I learn my swing and approach better, those line drives will take off and become homers. He tells me to work on being a gap-to-gap hitter and being an all-around hitter, and then let the power come when it comes."

Power came this season for Yelich, who previously topped out at 21 homers in 2016 with the Marlins, although he did amass 134 doubles in his four years in Miami. But this year, Yelich launched 36 homers to go with his 110 RBIs and league-leading .326 average, .598 slugging percentage and 1.000 OPS.
This near-Triple Crown performance did not surprise Rutherford.
"He has a phenomenal swing," Rutherford said. "He's a great player. It's exciting for me to be able to turn on the TV and watch him get the respect he's been deserving for so long.
"I'm blessed to be able to work with him and see how he goes about his work on a day-to-day basis in the offseason. He brings a lot of fun and thrill to the game."
The two keep up with each other in-season, with Yelich checking in on Rutherford and being the first to reach out with words of encouragement if he falls into a slump. Rutherford kind of models himself after Yelich, and the White Sox hope he has the same high-end development as the fellow Californian.
"I always watch him closely, because I feel like we are kind of similar in build," Rutherford said. "As the offseason comes, I'll get to talk to him more about what he's doing at the plate and pick the little stuff up. It's something I take notice of, when someone is having that good of a year, and I'm able to talk to him on a regular basis just about what's changed and how he is feeling."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.