The most ambitious trajectory would have had Orioles top prospect Adley Rutschman taking at-bats at Camden Yards barely more than a year after he was drafted last summer.
No one would have envisioned then that he’d be doing so as part of a summer training camp in July to prepare for a season that hasn’t started yet.
Still, the 2019 overall No. 1 draft pick has checked off a memory of a lifetime in the team’s intrasquad games as he was added to the camp roster Friday and took some at-bats with the big leaguers over the weekend.
“Being able to stand in the box, see big league arms, and just take it all in for the first time, it’s something you never get back,” Rutschman said. “It just reminds me of the first time I stood in at the College World Series, the first time I stood in at a college stadium with the [Oregon State] Beavers, and you just never get that first time back. I’m hoping there’s going to be another first time at every single stadium, whenever it is. But just to have that first feeling is unbelievable. It’s just so exciting.”
Rutschman’s inclusion in the major league camp comes as the Orioles wait to open their secondary camp site in Bowie this week, and he and several other top prospects will end up getting workouts in and staying ready there once the season gets underway.
It’s just the latest in a series of actions from the Orioles in which they’re trying to get the crown jewel of their farm system as much baseball as possible in his first full professional season.
Rutschman was invited to major league camp for a crash course in catching with the big league backstops and major league field coordinator/catching instructor Tim Cossins down in Sarasota, Florida, an invaluable experience for the youngest member of that group. Players and coaches were quite positive about his time there.
He went back to minor league camp before the coronavirus shut things down, but not before impressing teammates and staff there. In one of their intrasquad games for the early-camp participants that included the team’s best young players and those close to the majors, Rutschman turned around a pair of fastballs from top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez for home runs.
He went home to his apartment in Washington after the shutdown to carry on what Cossins and the Orioles staff worked with him on before he went to minor league camp.
“A lot of the technique that we talked about during spring training getting fixed and just adjusting, as far as like the throwing to second, for instance, just our movement patterns on that, I felt like I’ve been able to make strides in the right direction. Obviously there’s always going to be room for improvement. Then, as far as receiving goes, catching is a very technical thing. There’s a lot of small, small adjustments that can be made, and it’s very tough to see. But our coaches do a great job of explaining it, and I feel like on that end it’s been a very productive couple months.”
He also spent plenty of time on the shutdown program that director of player development Matt Blood and his staff put together to keep the team’s 150 minor leaguers engaged and active while they waited for word that the season was canceled.
Rutschman said they did “a tremendous job” with the program, which featured weekly Zoom calls that featured sports psychology and mental skills, cooking and nutrition, book clubs and yoga.
His favorite parts were the cooking classes, which featured a baked salmon dish and pesto chicken, and gave the “really funny” opportunity to see what teammates were capable of off the baseball field.
Their programs also kept him physically ready to report to camp last week and not miss a step.
“As far as the weight training went, we had programs sent out to all the guys so they’re able to stay on top of their stuff,” Rutschman said. “I felt like when I came back here, all the movement patterns we were doing, I felt comfortable doing them right out of the gate.”
The young catcher has particularly valued the opportunity to catch and learn from major league pitchers and see how the veteran catchers around him go about their business. That, and the live at-bats that will come at the secondary camp, will be the primary vehicles for his player development this year without a minor league baseball season.
“This is Adley Rutschman’s first full year, and he’s not even getting it,” manager Brandon Hyde said. That’s going to be a loss of development time for him. I’m not going to speculate on when he’s going to make his major league debut or when that’s going to be.”
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Still, Hyde said he’s been impressed with what he saw over the weekend.
Hyde said: “Adley’s a pro. He looks great. Swinging the bat really well, catching some major league pitching here the last couple days. He does it easy. He’s done a nice job of also putting a lot of work and time in these past few months. I know he sent videos to [Cossins] and some other guys constantly about the drills he’s been doing, and he came in and he’s here in shape and ready to go. It’s been fun watching the last couple of games.”
Surgery for Blach, Martin on Wednesday
Left-hander Ty Blach and shortstop Richie Martin both have surgeries scheduled for Wednesday that will end their seasons, with Blach undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction and Martin having a procedure to repair a fracture in his right wrist, Hyde said.
Blach left his outing during Thursday’s intrasquad game with elbow soreness, and Martin suffered his injury diving back into first base a night later.
Hyde noted that Blach has never been on the injured list before, and put in a lot of work to make himself a rotation depth piece for the Orioles.
“Richie’s case, really similar in that the work that he’s put in you wanted to see that pay off,” Hyde said. “Love the swing adjustments he was making. I just like the way Richie plays. He plays with energy. He comes to play every day. He’s an ultra pro, and that’s going to be tough not to have him here.”
Around the horn
Hyde said that despite the team’s outfield shortage, Ryan Mountcastle will begin the season at the secondary camp in Bowie, though he’s “close” to the majors. … Hyde said right-hander Asher Wojciechowski got better as he went along in his four-inning outing Sunday. … Left-hander Tommy Milone and right-hander Thomas Eshelman were scheduled to start Monday night’s simulated game.