Orioles reset: Like Buster Posey before him, Adley Rutschman showing value of having a two-way catcher

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SAN FRANCISCO — A historic franchise coming off down seasons called up a catcher with a boyish face and suddenly, everything changed.

More than a decade after Buster Posey returned the San Francisco Giants to prominence, Adley Rutschman is having a similar impact in Baltimore. Since calling him up last May, the Orioles have transformed into one of baseball’s top teams after years as one of its worst.


Rutschman has drawn comparisons to Posey since before he was drafted first overall in 2019, and they have only grown since he reached the majors. It’s perhaps unfair, given Posey’s 12-season career could land him in the Hall of Fame and featured numerous World Series championships, All-Star appearances and Silver Sluggers to go with a Gold Glove. Rutschman has yet to accomplish any of those, though he’s positioned to change that this season.

But as Posey was to the Giants, Rutschman, 25, is a catcher who is vital to his team on both sides of the ball and is in many ways its centerpiece. Each is known for his embraces, with “Buster Hugs” doled out after World Series victories and no-hitters and “Adley Hugs” provided whenever Baltimore wins with Rutschman behind the plate.


Those have come often. The Orioles’ series win in San Francisco over the weekend left them at 37-22 on the year and 104-77 since Rutschman’s debut, a 93-win pace across 162 games.

“The record kind of speaks for itself,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Our season definitely changed when he got here last year.”

The Orioles’ series win in San Francisco over the weekend left them at 37-22 on the year and 104-77 since catcher Adley Rutschman’s debut, a 93-win pace across 162 games.

He has yet to reach Posey’s level of early-career team success, though hopes are high for this campaign. After a cup of coffee in 2009 — San Francisco’s first winning season in five years — Posey arrived permanently in May 2010, winning National League Rookie of the Year and guiding the Giants to their first of three World Series championships in a five-year span.

Posey was the heartbeat of each of those teams. Current Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy, Posey’s manager for all but his last season, said he doesn’t know of “a move that’s more valuable” than adding a two-way catcher to a roster.

“When you have a guy that’s going to really handle your staff, hit in the heart of the order, give you pretty much a leader on the field, it’s such an important role, and you’re lucky to have that kind of guy,” Bochy said. “We know how lucky we were with Buster. When he came up in 2010, it was evident right away, with how he took over the staff, led us through our really good years, and you guys [in Baltimore] have a special player there. They’re game changers, they really are, on both sides of the ball, more than any other player can be.”

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, left, celebrates with pitcher Sergio Romo after winning the 2012 World Series. As Posey was to the Giants, the Orioles' Adley Rutschman, 25, is a catcher who is vital to his team on both sides of the ball and is in many ways its centerpiece.

Rutschman has been in the lineup at either catcher or designated hitter for all but four games this season, batting second in all 55 of his starts. Posey hit second, third or fourth in almost 95% of his career starts.

After missing much of the 2011 season with a broken left ankle suffered in a home-plate collision, Posey returned as the NL Most Valuable Player in 2012, hitting .336 with a .957 OPS, 24 home runs and 103 RBIs in his age-25 season. Between that season and his last in 2021, Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout was the only position player worth more wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs.

“He was just so good at knowing who we had on the mound, doing his homework and learning each hitter that we were facing. And then was just such a good hitter also, being able to use the whole field and hit for power,” said longtime Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, who spent a decade as Posey’s teammate. “If you have somebody that can manage the game defensively and then also contribute really anything offensively, it’s a huge plus.


“But then somebody like Adley, obviously, provides more than just a little bit on the offensive side.”

Rutschman entered Sunday leading the American League in walks and times on base, reaching twice more with his team-leading 11th infield hit and a double. Hyde is particularly praising of his approach, pointing to Rutschman’s ability to display pull-side power and deliver “handsy swings” that result in opposite-field singles.

More than a decade after Buster Posey, left, returned the San Francisco Giants to prominence, Adley Rutschman is having a similar impact with the Orioles.

With two strikes, Rutschman is hitting .267 with a .371 on-base percentage, a mark he led the majors in through Saturday.

“There’s just no press in his game,” Hyde said. “He’s just super relaxed, and he understands the strike zone so well, and he has so much confidence in his hands.

“He is a different type of player.”

But the part of Rutschman’s game that Hyde appreciates the most comes on the other side of the ball. Rutschman has long been known for his bonds with his pitchers, rushing up to them to offer a fist bump after a good inning or support after a rough one.


“What I like best about him is that he’s upset when a pitcher doesn’t do well, and he takes it really personal,” Hyde said. “He is trying everything he can to get that pitcher through an inning. When a guy doesn’t, he takes it personal. That’s a great attribute. Shows how much he cares and how much of a team guy he is. It’s not all about his numbers and what he does; it’s really about helping others, and for me, it’s an amazing quality he has that he brought here and just really changed a lot of things around here.”

Gabe Kapler has twice seen the impact adding a top catcher can have on a roster during his time as a major league manager. After his first season managing the Philadelphia Phillies in 2018, the club traded for J.T. Realmuto, who along with Atlanta’s Sean Murphy is one of two catchers worth more WAR than Rutschman across the past two seasons. Kapler’s first year with San Francisco was the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, which Posey opted out of. He returned the next year, earning his fifth Silver Slugger and seventh All-Star selection as the Giants won an MLB-best 107 games in what proved to be his final season.

“From a manager’s perspective, it’s incredibly comforting, obviously,” Kapler said. “You know that there’s no situation that’s going to be too big or too fast for that player.”

Kapler added that Rutschman is “one of the best young players, independent of his position.” He just happens to play the most important one.

“If I’m gonna do something, I’m trying to do it to the best of my ability,” Rutschman said. “I try and be as good as I can on every aspect that I can control.”

What’s to come?

After Monday’s day off, the Orioles continue their road trip with three games against the Milwaukee Brewers, who lead the NL Central. The Orioles opened the home portion of their 2022 schedule with the Brewers, but they haven’t played in Milwaukee since July 2017; Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jiménez and Jayson Aquino were their starters in the series. Kyle Gibson will start Tuesday’s series opener opposite Freddy Peralta, but the Orioles have yet to announce who will oppose Corbin Burnes and Colin Rea the next two days.


The Orioles then close out their season series with the Kansas City Royals, who they took two of three road games from in their first series of May. The matchup was high-scoring, with Baltimore outscoring Kansas City, 24-23.

Aaron Hicks impressed in his first week with the Orioles, reaching base eight times in four games.

What was good?

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Signed Tuesday as the Orioles placed All-Star center fielder Cedric Mullins on the injured list with a right groin strain, Aaron Hicks impressed in his first week with Baltimore. In four games, the 33-year-old outfielder reached base eight times, batting .455 with a 1.207 OPS after his .188/.263/.261 line for the New York Yankees prompted his release. Hicks is a switch-hitter who will see more time against right-handed pitchers, and a run of them coming up means he’ll get the chance to continue his hot start as an Oriole.

What wasn’t?

Hicks is doing well, but losing Mullins is undoubtedly a blow. Likely the Orioles’ most important player beyond Rutschman, Mullins pulled up short of first base trying to run out a ground ball in the eighth inning of a 5-0 loss to Cleveland on May 29. Both Hyde and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias have said Mullins’ absence will be weeks, not months, but even that is dreadful when discussing a leadoff hitter and Gold Glove-caliber center fielder.

On the farm

If not for his own lower-body injury, No. 3 prospect Colton Cowser might have gotten called up in Mullins’ place. After missing almost three weeks with a left quadriceps injury, the 23-year-old rejoined Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday and picked up where he left off. In two games, he went 4-for-5 with a home run and two walks, leaving his slash line for the Tides at .347/.484/.590. Cowser left both games early, part of a progression as he ramps up off the injury.

Orioles at Brewers

Tuesday, 7:40 p.m.



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