The Orioles introduce their first round draft pick catcher Adley Rutschman, who was the No. 1 overall pick. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)
With an orange tie peeking out from the collar of his first Orioles jersey, Adley Rutschman looked the part of the boyish face of the team’s future.
Manny Machado, in a navy tank top and a San Diego Padres hat to match, also looked the part of the role he’s now playing as the face of the Orioles’ past. On the day Baltimore introduced Rutschman, the Oregon State catcher the franchise signed Monday after taking him with the draft’s first overall pick, Machado came to Camden Yards as a visitor for the first time after nearly a decade with the organization.
His first at-bat, a strikeout, followed a lengthy ovation and commemorative video. Then he homered on the first pitch of his second at-bat for his 100th career home run at Oriole Park and the first in anything other than black and orange.
“This is a place I called home for a long time,” Machado said before the game. “Coming in here, coming to a hotel, not my home, coming to the opposite side of the clubhouse, it's a little different. But it feels good, feels like it's home.”
Only a couple of hours separated Machado and Rutschman from using the same table in the auxiliary clubhouse at Camden Yards. While Machado fielded questions during a news conference, Rutschman was taking batting practice, smacking home runs and igniting thoughts of a brighter future for an organization heading toward another No. 1 pick.
The Orioles drafted Machado with the third overall pick in 2010, and he was in the majors by 2012, supplying an offensive bump and sterling infield defense to get the team to its first postseason in 15 years. They went back to the postseason in 2014 and 2016, but amid what became a franchise-worst 115-loss season in 2018, the Orioles traded Machado, a pending free agent, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for five players. He signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with San Diego this past offseason that at the time was the largest free-agent contract ever.
Those 115 losses gave the Orioles the chance to draft Rutschman, who on Monday signed his own record agreement, receiving an $8.1 million signing bonus that surpassed Gerrit Cole’s 2011 deal as a draftee’s biggest. The Orioles deemed it worthwhile for a franchise-altering player.
“We said all along this is probably the biggest decision that this organization’s gonna make this year, and we took it very seriously,” first-year executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome, having him join our organization, being part of the process we’re going through to take this organization back to where it belongs. We are in a phase right now where we’re looking for building blocks, and I think that by signing Adley Rutschman today, we’ve found a very big piece.”
Rutschman has won practically every award available for amateurs and likely has more coming his way before beginning his pro career with the Orioles’ Rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate before moving to Short-A Aberdeen while the organization manages his time behind the plate.
He and his family, West Coasters through and through, have savored the opportunity to wander Camden Yards. They hope for many more visits in the future.
“It’s a special thing here,” Rutschman said. “It’s a special history, and just to be a part of that and a part of the building process that’s going on right now, I’m truly humbled.”
Machado, too, was decorated as a Florida prep player. Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini faced Machado growing up in the Sunshine State and was his teammate after getting called up in 2016, while he briefly met with Rutschman amid what was a whirlwind Tuesday for the top pick.
The irony of the Orioles welcoming Machado and Rutschman the same day was not lost on him.
“It definitely is a strange coincidence,” Mancini said. “A massive piece of the Orioles’ past, the most talented player that’s been here, in my opinion, in a very, very long time. And then the No. 1 overall pick’s here on the same day.”
Mancini said he enjoyed being Machado’s teammate, noting a lengthy text message Machado sent him after last summer’s trade saying he believed in Mancini’s potential. Mancini, a potential All-Star, would also like to stick around long enough to have a locker in the Orioles’ clubhouse when Rutschman is doing more than passing through during a tour around the ballpark.
“That’s what I want; I want to be here,” Mancini said. “If I get to play with Adley … I feel like he’s kind of the face for the new wave of guys coming.
“Hopefully, he can climb his way up here soon.”
Machado did that, promoted to the majors 26 months after he was drafted. The Orioles went 33-18 with Machado in the lineup down the stretch before winning the inaugural American League wild-card game in their first playoff appearance since 1997, four months before Rutschman was born.
Then 20 years old, Machado did not carry the Orioles there alone. Throughout Tuesday’s news conference, he constantly praised the veterans who surrounded him during his time as an Oriole — Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and others.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys while I was here to mentor me, to take me under their wings, to show me everything I know now,” Machado said. “I’m truly grateful for everything that this organization has done, for the guys who have done for me. I mean, it’s just endless kind of, the relationships that we had in that clubhouse who made me the player I am today.
“We kind of brought back that life of baseball to the city, and we enjoyed every moment of it. Those are things that will never be forgotten, and the fans won’t and us as players won’t. There’s always times that you’ve got to turn the page and move onto the next type of process.”
The Orioles’ process now involves stacking as much talent around Rutschman as possible. Whatever playoff drought he tries to end when he gets promoted won’t be nearly as lengthy as the one Machado stepped into, and he likely won’t begin his career with the number of All-Stars and Gold Glove Award winners Machado had as teammates.
Machado was the last piece of the Orioles’ playoff puzzle in 2012, while Rutschman’s signing represents the hopeful spark of the organization’s rebuild. The organization is not concerned about his ability to handle that title.
“Not only does he have a slow heartbeat in the box, he’s also got one of the field as well,” amateur scouting director Brad Ciolek said. “He’s very calm. He’s got a great demeanor. He doesn’t really seem to shy away from anything.
“There’s not a spotlight that’s too bright for this guy.”
On Tuesday night, both Rutschman and Machado stood under the bright lights at Camden Yards, receiving separate standing ovations. Machado eventually followed his with a homer. What Rutschman does after his won’t be known for a while.
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“Manny was a great, terrific player here for many, many years, and hopefully, sooner rather than later, we can have Adley here and see what he can do here at Camden Yards,” Ciolek said. “He’s basically everything you could hope for in the face of a franchise.”
Orioles sign second-rounder Henderson
Rutschman’s arrival wasn’t the only shoe to drop Tuesday, with the Orioles announcing second-rounder Gunnar Henderson has also signed.
Henderson, a high school shortstop from Alabama, was the No. 42 overall selection, but was generally regarded as a first-round talent. A shortstop for John T. Morgan Academy, he could play third base in the future, though Elias has said his bat profiles well at either position. Henderson was Alabama’s Gatorade State Player of the Year and hit .559/.641/1.225 with 11 home runs and 28 stolen bases in 32 games. Like Rutschman before him, Henderson will receive an in-game introduction Wednesday.