As O’s rookie catcher Adley Rutschman was named the Most Valuable Oriole today – just the third rookie to take the MVO award since 1954 – it can be easy to forget he wasn’t always producing an .800 or better OPS.
Rutschman played his first game this year for the Orioles on May 21, and after 15 games he was batting .143 with a .422 OPS. After his first 20 games he had no homers or RBIs before breaking through June 15 at Toronto when he hit a two-run homer in the fourth off José Berríos, the same pitcher he will face tonight.
After saying how honored he was today to win the MVO, which is voted on by local media, he recalled the early struggles at the big league level.
“It’s just, we talk about the process a lot, and when you are struggling it’s definitely tough to stay in that mindset,” he said. “But just was trying to do the best that I could to stay positive, stay in the clubhouse around the guys and not let it dictate my attitude or anything else. Kind of control-the-controllables-type thing. Just try to continue to learn and show up to the field with energy.”
And he was getting plenty of support and encouragement at that time.
“You know, we have a lot of great wisdom in this locker room from vets in here," Rutschman said. "A lot of guys just basically talked about not pressing and just trying to continue to move forward, take each AB as it comes and just learn.
“It’s a great honor. I’m very fortunate to be able to play this game and come out and compete. Really, the guys around me make for this experience. I’ve said that all year. It means a lot. I’m very thankful.”
Over 111 games through Sunday at New York, Rutschman is batting .254/.361/.448/.809 with 35 doubles, a triple, 13 homers, 70 runs and 42 RBIs.
“It’s a great honor. But I think, more importantly, this team is just focused on each other and the memories we’ve made," he said. "The individual awards are great and it’s very cool. But I think, more importantly, is that team focus, the guys around us and the energy we’ve shared all year.”
Rutschman has set an Orioles rookie record for doubles, surpassing Cal Ripken’s 32 in 1982. He is the second O's rookie with at least 10 home runs and 30 doubles in a season, along with Ripken. His 63 walks are currently the fourth-most by an Orioles rookie, trailing Curt Blefary (88, 1965), Ron Hansen (69, 1960) and Jim Gentile (68, 1960). Blefary, Hansen and Gentile each appeared in at least 138 games.
Previous rookies to win the MVO were pitchers Gregg Olson in 1989 and Rodrigo López in 2002. Previous catchers to take home this hardware were Gus Triandos in 1958 and Chris Hoiles in 1993.
“My biggest goal is to try and achieve my potential," Rutschman said. "Go out every day and focus on the process, just, you know, bring the energy and be learning from each day. So, anytime I can do that it’s big, and it’s what I focus on. But it’s the guys in this locker room and the memories and experiences that we have together that are going to be the things we are talking about for the next 20 years. That is the biggest takeaway from me.”
When Rutschman joined the Orioles in late May they were 16-24. They have gone 66-53 since. Rutschman today said he was appreciative of the comments of manager Brandon Hyde’s, who talked about how things changed for the better when the young catcher made his debut.
“You know, the biggest thing with that, I think, is the more that you value someone in your life and the more that they pour into you, the way our coaching staff and our players do, you value those opinions so much," Rutschman said. "And to me, that means the world that he gave those kind words to me and felt I deserved those kind words. It means the world to me, and I’m just fortunate to play with all these guys."
Rutschman was asked what he has learned playing just about every day in the majors.
“Every day brings its new challenges, and that is the great thing about baseball: Each day is different and you find out more things about yourself," he said. "And about the guys around you. Because this game is very revealing of character. It’s definitely been a whirlwind of a year, lot of ups and downs. I’m just proud of the way this team stood together through all of it."
Now he, the rest of the clubhouse and Birdland look forward to more winning for the Orioles moving forward.
“I’m really excited," Rutschman said. "You know we have a good thing going on right now. So, it’s going to be exciting to see what the coming years have to bring."