How Rutschman plans to lead O's to more success in '23

February 5th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- The expectations for 's rookie season couldn't have been much higher. As the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft -- the first in Mike Elias' tenure as Baltimore's general manager -- the former Oregon State catcher became the face of the Orioles' rebuild.

When Rutschman arrived last May to great fanfare, he quickly emerged as everything O's supporters had hoped for, evolving from the face of the rebuild to the face of the franchise.

So, how can he build on that and improve in Year Two in the big leagues?

"My goal is always to be the best version of myself, best baseball player, best human. And because of that, there's always going to be room to improve," Rutschman said on Saturday at Checkerspot Brewing Company in Baltimore, the site of the final stop of the Birdland Caravan's third day. "That's the thing about baseball and life -- you're always going to have things to improve on."

If the 2022 version of Rutschman wasn't the best, it may have been pretty close. The 24-year-old slashed .254/.362/.445 with 13 homers, 35 doubles and 42 RBIs in 113 games. He was lauded by Orioles pitchers for his defense and pitch-calling ability behind the plate.

Rutschman was the runner-up for the American League Rookie of the Year Award and even garnered some AL MVP consideration, finishing 12th in voting.

This offseason, the catcher followed a personalized plan laid out for him by Baltimore's co-hitting coaches, Matt Borgschulte and Ryan Fuller. Rutschman didn't explain the specifics of it, but he's always focused on refining his offensive skills.

One of the biggest reasons why he could be even better in 2023, though, may be his new familiarity with playing in the Major Leagues.

"I think at every single level -- whether it's high school, college, pro ball, big leagues -- there's always going to be steps that you take and things that are very uncertain going in," Rutschman said. "Once you've done it for a year, two years, however long, you're going to become more comfortable and just know the routine. I think coming into this year, I know the routine a little bit more, and so I'm definitely excited to get going."

Rutschman isn't the only one eager for the upcoming season to arrive, and that's been evident throughout the Orioles' Birdland Caravan stops this weekend. He was among the seven Baltimore players who joined Elias and manager Brandon Hyde to serve as guest bartenders for Happy Hour on Saturday at Checkerspot, where another large crowd of fans greeted the O's contingent.

There are high expectations for the club, both externally and internally. Elias has stated numerous times that the postseason is the Orioles' goal this year, after they fell three games shy of an AL Wild Card berth during their 83-win 2022 campaign.

Rutschman didn't make the same postseason declaration. However, he believes the Orioles are on a good track.

"Everyone's a year older now. I'm really excited to see what we can do," Rutschman said. "I know the guys on this team are just of high character and we come together well. I'm really excited to see what we've got."

Other Orioles players didn't shy away from saying where they hope to end up this October.

"Last year, we fell very short from the playoffs," infielder said. "The Orioles have the base, and I think it's time to make the playoffs."

Added left-hander : "To have those expectations, we're going to try our best to live up to them."

Baltimore's young core should only improve, continuing to boost its postseason chances. And Rutschman will be at the forefront of the O's hopes to play beyond the regular season for the first time since 2016.

Excited about the roster and farm system assembled by the Orioles, Rutschman is ready to help power the team into its next phase -- a post-rebuild one, as Elias stated on Friday.

"Leadership for me is one of those things that has to come authentically, and I'm just going to try to be myself and help guys in the best way that I can," Rutschman said. "I think however that shows itself is what it's going to be, I don't think anything's going to be forced.

"That's the nice part about being a catcher is I'm able to help out [in] a lot of different aspects. I'm able to help out the pitching staff and encourage the guys who are hitting. So we're just going to try and do that."