Adley Rutschman wasn’t the only rookie to be productive for the Orioles this season. Gunnar Henderson looks like he will be the team’s third baseman for a long time because of his bat and glove. In fact, Henderson didn’t make any errors in 24 big league games at third base in 2022, and his on-base percentage was a stellar .348.
In a recent sitdown with MLB.com at Camden Yards, Henderson talked about his approach to hitting, his relationship with Rutschman and his promising future with the Orioles.
MLB.com: On Tuesday, you were named the MLB Pipeline Hitting Prospect of the Year. What does that mean to you?
Gunnar Henderson: I’m very blessed. I’m fortunate to be considered for that [award]. It’s just a testament to the hitting coaches throughout the year and just the Orioles in general -- just helping me in any way. They were helping me with the scouting reports, whatever helps to get me prepared for the game
MLB.com: It’s rare when I hear a player talk about scouting reports. How much do they help you?
Henderson: It’s like going through a test without studying. The better you can prepare for the pitcher, get yourself ready for him, it can only help you. I feel [reading scouting reports] is a huge thing -- go in there and try to have a little bit of advantage, because the pitchers are getting better and better each and every year. You have to evolve with it, do the best you can to put yourself in a good position to succeed.
MLB.com: That’s one thing I noticed about you. You lay off those bad pitches. You have to be happy about that?
Henderson: I thought I was able to get that done pretty well this year. I look forward to carrying it into next year.
MLB.com: What did you do to show the Orioles that you belong in the big leagues this year?
Henderson: I thought I handled every level of pitching, just being able to have the experience of going up [to the Major Leagues] and showing I can do it. Controlling the strike zone is the biggest thing. I did a pretty decent job.
MLB.com: The one thing I notice is that you take a lot of walks. Your on-base percentage is kind of high …
Henderson: That’s the biggest thing for me this year. Last year, I tried to do too much. Just being able to limit that -- say they are pitching around me in certain situations -- I’ll take my walks. I felt I’ve done a really good job of that this year, no matter what the situations were.
Henderson: This is what you dream of whenever you get caught up in a pennant race, just helping the team in any way. We didn’t get the chance to fully make the playoffs. We have a really good building block for this year to propel us into next year. The older, veteran guys set the tone, giving the team an idea what it takes to win and how you go about it. It’s been awesome to see how they have done it.
MLB.com: Who do you think set the tone for this winning atmosphere?
Henderson: Robinson Chirinos, Rougned Odor, just those type of guys … because they are position players. They come from winning teams and playoff pushes before. I’ve picked their brains and learned how they have helped the team, not just on the field, off the field, like getting prepared, what to expect in that aspect.
MLB.com: What’s the biggest thing you learned from them?
Henderson: No matter what the situation is, you go out there and give your best effort. Ultimately, it’s a team game. Just go out there and do what you can to help the team win. That ultimately make you better and your teammates better.
MLB.com: Manager Brandon Hyde said things turned around for the Orioles once Adley arrived. What does he mean to you?
Henderson: He is my best friend. He was my first roommate when I arrived in pro ball. We have been able to work our way through, follow him, talk to him. He was a draft pick before me [in 2019] and I felt we’ve been friends ever since we met. I’ve been able to share the field with him and it has been special.
MLB.com: What’s the biggest thing people don’t know about Adley?
Henderson: Even off the field, he is a great guy. He is an entertainer. He is an awesome guy to be around. Everything you get on the field, you get off the field. He is as advertised.
MLB.com: I noticed he doesn’t like to talk about himself.
Henderson: He is as humble as they come. I can talk about him freely. He is the best. You can’t say enough words about him.
MLB.com: What has been the biggest thing he ever did for you since you have been in the big leagues?
Henderson: He has been that confident factor. He has been there. I can go to him. He has had a lot longer experience in the big leagues than I have. To be able to have him here, I can go up there and talk to him, let him know how I’m feeling. We are on that comfortability level.
MLB.com: Do you realize that next year, people will be referring to you and Adley as the power duo?
Henderson: That would be pretty special. Like I said, we’ve been in pro ball since 2019. He is one of my best friends, and it would be pretty awesome and special to share that [distinction]. I’m looking forward to see what the team can do next year.
MLB.com: When you hit your first big league home run, your helmet came off. Do people say anything to you about it?
Henderson: The helmet, I think it was too small because I had too much hair. It just came off. Freddie, our [clubhouse attendant], came up with a good contraption for the helmet. It hasn’t come off yet.
MLB.com: What did Freddie do?
Henderson: He put a little rubber piece in the front and the back and an actual earpiece cover. It stays on pretty well.