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Adley Rutschman’s first hit of spring helps Orioles rally in ninth for 3-3 tie with Twins

When Adley Rutschman pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on first and the Orioles down two, manager Brandon Hyde’s mind went the same direction as many of those who cheered when the top prospect’s name was announced.

“I thought he was gonna hit one in the palm trees,” Hyde said.

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Representing the tying run Thursday against the Minnesota Twins, the 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick ended an 0-for-8 start to his first major league spring training and smoked a single into right field, continuing a rally that led to a 3-3 tie.

“He was due," Hyde said. "It was nice to see. I’m sure it feels good for him to get his first major league spring training hit.”

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After fellow 2019 draftee Mason Janvrin pinch-ran for Rutschman, T.J. Nichting followed with a single to right to score Rylan Bannon, who opened the inning with a walk. Austin Wynns then hit a chopper back to the mound to bring home Janvrin and tie the game.

With a runner on third and no outs, Zach Jarrett and Richard Urena struck out, then Malquin Canelo grounded out in front of home plate to end the game in the Orioles’ second tie of the spring.

Akin continues refinement

Keegan Akin spent all of last year in Triple-A refining his secondary pitches. One particular pitch in his third spring training outing for the Orioles showed there remains work to do.

He induced two quick popups to open his afternoon before former Oriole Nelson Cruz blasted a home run to left field, the lone run Akin allowed. After his 2⅔-inning outing, the 24-year-old left-hander chuckled when asked if the pitch was where he wanted it.

“It was supposed to be a changeup, and I think it turned into a cutter,” Akin said. “So, still got some stuff to work on.”

The Orioles’ No. 9 prospect per Baseball America, Akin pitched for Triple-A Norfolk the entirety of 2019, working to build his repertoire beyond a fastball-heavy approach. That had been enough to earn him the Orioles’ Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award in 2018 after he recorded a 3.27 ERA with Double-A.

But on the cusp of the majors and with a new analytically driven front-office regime in place, Akin was tasked with developing his offspeed pitches. It led to mixed results; he led the International League with 131 strikeouts, but he walked nearly five batters per nine innings and posted a 4.73 ERA.

The Orioles added Akin to their 40-man roster in the offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, and he’s spending spring training competing for an Opening Day rotation spot. The development of his secondary pitches will be critical in that.

“They’re not where I want to be yet, which is usually how it is for me in spring training,” Akin said. “My offspeed, I always struggle trying to hone those in and get those dialed in, so for me, going forward, it’s just pitch off my fastball and mix those in. In bullpens work on them, in games work on them. For me, it’s all about being comfortable out there and ending spring training healthy and feeling good.”

Hyde agreed that progress is still needed.

“I think he shows flashes off it," Hyde said. "I thought there was some flashes of some good changeups. Threw a handful of good ones. Thought the breaking ball was good at times. A little bit inconsistent. Tough to go through American League lineups if you can’t land it in there and get it to chase when you want, so I think there’s still improvement to be made, but I was impressed by the performance. He really made one mistake.”

Akin made Thursday’s start three weeks ahead of Opening Day. When the Orioles go north, he hopes to be with them, but for now, he’s pleased to be in Sarasota rather than Twins Lakes on the minor league side.

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“I’m taking it pretty serious, and obviously want to win a spot out of camp,” Akin said. “It’s obviously a little more competitive right now [than minor league camp]. Down there, it’d be more so just getting built up, building up my pitch count, things like that, so it’s definitely a little more competitive.

“I’d much rather be in this atmosphere playing games already and stuff like that, rather than throwing sim games or bullpens on a backfield, so it’s been fun and exciting so far.”

Davis delivers again

Before the ninth-inning rally, the Orioles’ lone offense Thursday came from Chris Davis, who continued his resurgent spring with a two-out, opposite-field single off Twins starter Homer Bailey that tied the game.

Davis’ RBI hit came between a groundout and strikeout, leaving him 6-for-12 in spring with three home runs and eight RBIs. Cedric Mullins, who followed Cruz’s home run in the first with a full-extension diving catch to rob Miguel Sano, led off the frame with a single, moved to second on a groundball and scored on Davis’ hit.

Trade dividends

Up for the day as an extra from minor league camp, Bannon entered the game in the seventh inning at third at the same time right-hander Dean Kremer took the mound. With Yusniel Diaz having started in right field and still in the game, the Orioles had three prospects they acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Manny Machado on the field at the same time.

Kremer worked a scoreless frame as the fifth Orioles pitcher behind Akin, with Diaz catching a liner to end the frame and strand two runners. After Jay Flaa completed the third inning, Mychal Givens allowed a leadoff walk to come around to score in the fourth. The hard-throwing duo of Hunter Harvey and Tanner Scott each pitched scoreless innings before Kremer had two of his own. Cole Sulser worked the ninth, with Twins No. 2 prospect Alex Kirilloff hitting an opposite-field home run off him.

ORIOLES@YANKEES

Friday, 6:35 p.m.

Radio: 105.7 FM

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