Rutschman ruled out for Opening Day

April 4th, 2022

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Despite the progress Adley Rutschman continues to make, he’s not expected to be ready in time for either Major League or Triple-A Opening Day.

That was the dichotomy in news the Orioles unveiled for their top prospect on Sunday and Monday morning. A day after manager Brandon Hyde unveiled that Rutschman had resumed light baseball activities following a two-plus-week shutdown, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias made official that the catcher won’t be ready by either Tuesday for Triple-A Opening Day or Friday for Major League Opening Day, as had long been expected.

“I don't think [he'll] be ready for either Opening Day, but it's going smoothly, and -- fingers crossed -- I think he'll be out and playing in a matter of weeks,” Elias said on Monday. “He missed Spring Training, so we've got that to worry about, but I think it's going well and I think he'll be playing real baseball games in April.”

The positive news is that the Orioles’ top prospect and baseball's No. 2 overall per MLB Pipeline has resumed hitting and throwing activities, marking Rutschman’s biggest step forward since a right triceps strain shut him down at the outset of big league camp.

“Doing extremely well,” Hyde said on Sunday. “He's right on track for where we want him to be right now, and now it's just building and recovering.”

Rutschman is still limited to hitting off a tee -- from both sides -- and light throwing, Hyde said. Elias was not quite ready to declare a concrete plan for Rutschman once light baseball activities progress to a more full regime -- be that ramp up in Sarasota or at a lower affiliate, an assignment straight to Triple-A or, very unexpected, a direct callup to the Majors.

“Kind of TBD on all of that,” Elias said. “Taking it one day at a time and kind of seeing where we're at. When the calendar clicks and when he's ready to go face live pitching and all that, we'll address it then.”

Rutschman will be cautiously worked back to full baseball activities before facing live opponents. Helping his cause is that he was an early report to Minor League camp, where he took part in intrasquad scrimmages, but he hasn’t faced an opponent in an official capacity since the end of the last Minor League season.

Rutschman sustained the injury in an intrasquad game on March 11 -- the same game that Heston Kjerstad sustained a left hamstring strain that is expected to sideline him eight to 12 weeks -- although the club is not exactly sure what caused the ailment. Rutschman reported to camp the next day with some soreness in his elbow area, and a scan taken thereafter showed a strain to the triceps region.

The Orioles said on March 16 that Rutschman would be shut down from baseball activities for two to three weeks. Rutschman had taken part in some catching and defensive work prior to Hyde’s announcement on Sunday, but he hadn’t done anything that would test his right elbow area.

But now the momentum for a return to action is building.

Even before the injury, it was far from a given that Rutschman would make the Orioles' Opening Day roster for Friday's game against the Rays at Tropicana Field. The club has been gradual in his development and elevating him through the levels, and while it’s been wholly expected that Rutschman will debut at some point in 2022, whenever that day arrives, it will be a storyline of the upcoming campaign.

But Rutschman has been able to continue development away from the field. With Robinson Chirinos slated to be the starting catcher, Rutschman has been present in all catching and appropriate meetings with the pitching staff. During drills, he’s present and onlooking, learning from a catching room that also includes Anthony Bemboom, Jacob Nottingham and Beau Taylor. All are competing for the second catching spot on the roster until Rutschman’s eventual callup.

“In everything we do, he's been involved,” Hyde said. “Maybe not so much from the running of the drill, but he stands there and he's been in every single meeting. Whenever we do any sort of fundamental or anything on the field, he's right there, just not fully involved yet. He's trying to soak in as much as he possibly can without being able to participate.

“He’s antsy, like anybody,” Hyde added. “He's doing everything he can right now.”