WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Jackson Rutledge was the Nationals’ first-round pick of the 2019 Draft, taken No. 17 overall out of San Jacinto Junior College. The No. 3 prospect on Washington’s newly released Top 30 prospects list, the 6-foot-8 right-hander had a 3.13 ERA and .169 batting average against
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Jackson Rutledge was the Nationals’ first-round pick of the 2019 Draft, taken No. 17 overall out of San Jacinto Junior College. The No. 3 prospect on Washington’s newly released Top 30 prospects list, the 6-foot-8 right-hander had a 3.13 ERA and .169 batting average against in 37 1/3 innings in his pro debut last summer.
• Nationals Spring Training prospect report
MLB.com: You’re coming off of your pro debut and your first offseason. How was that different than planning for another college season?
Rutledge: I think the difference is the time you can take to really put into every small detail in pro ball. In college, you have to worry about school and taking care of all that, whereas pro ball it’s every day, 24/7, you’re working toward being good on the field. Which is something I really liked about pro ball, you can pay attention to every detail.
MLB.com: I’ve heard you really like to get after it, in all facets. What was different in terms of the strength and conditioning things the Nats introduced to you that maybe you thought, ‘Huh, I hadn’t thought of things that way before."?
Rutledge: I think a lot of things I’m doing now are similar to what I had been doing. I was lucky to have a good group of strength coaches when I was back in high school and college. Some of that transferred into what I’m doing now. We’re able to do some more advanced things with creating movement patterns that are going to benefit me in the weight room.
MLB.com: You didn’t pitch a ton during your pro debut, but you got to move up a little bit. What were some of your takeaways from that?
Rutledge: I think the biggest takeaway for me was learning the routines, learning the in-and-outs of every day, going to the field, taking care of stuff in the clubhouse, taking care of stuff pre-game, post-game, learning from the guys who’ve been around a little bit more than I have. Just figuring out what works for me and how I need to approach every day. Going forward, I can make some adjustments and continue to learn from other guys, how they approach hitters, how they approach scouting reports, those sorts of things.
MLB.com: This organization has a reputation of developing power pitchers. Have you been able to pick the brains at all of guys like Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg? And how exciting is it for you as a young power arm to even watch them go about their business.
Rutledge: It’s really cool to watch those guys. I think each one goes about their business a little bit differently. Watching them throw bullpens side-by-side, it’s a completely different approach to how they were working on their game. But both of them had a high-intent output and they were both doing their thing and doing what they knew they needed to do to get better. It’s something I can learn from both guys and continue to put that into my own game.
MLB.com: The path you took as an amateur was not exactly the standard path, getting hurt at Arkansas (torn hip labrum) and then transferring to San Jac. When you got hurt, did you ever worry about what that could mean?
Rutledge: I was definitely down when I found out I was hurt. It was the first major injury I’d had in my career. It was definitely something where I had to pick myself up, use my family, use my friends to support me and get back into working hard and getting healthy. I’m very thankful, in hindsight, that I transferred to San Jac and I spent that year there. I think it made me stronger and made me better mentally. I know my game better now. I probably wouldn’t be standing here now if all of that wouldn’t have happened.
MLB.com: Speaking of being healthier, you’ve really bought into the nutrition side of things, not just about hitting the weights. And you cook. What’s your go-to dish?
Rutledge: Tonight, I think we’re doing pork steaks. It’s a St. Louis thing, if you haven’t heard of that, but it’s one of my favorite dishes to do. I made some burgers last night, a little pasta. I can cook about everything. I watch a lot of “Chopped.”
MLB.com: Do you have teammates and roommates just leaning on you to feed them all?
Rutledge: A little bit. Lucas Knowles has been staying with me for a couple of months and Jake Randa is with me right now in my condo and we’re putting together on groceries and eating right and getting big.
MLB.com: Your dad renovates homes and you like to help out there, too. I know you say you watch “Chopped.” Is there an HGTV show you like to watch? Maybe there could be a Rutledge father-son show in the future?
Rutledge: A little bit. I did more of the stuff they don’t put on the shows, like tearing down walls and hauling stuff to the trash. That was more my job when I was growing up. They don’t really show that on HGTV.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.