Orioles fans arrived early at Camden Yards this afternoon, unable to pass through the gates but hopeful of scoring an autograph from catcher Adley Rutschman near the players’ entrance. Or at least get a glimpse of him.
A sign was hung outside Pickles Pub that read: “You Adley At Hello”
This is Rutschman’s day, for sure, but the Orioles had other business to handle, some of it more pleasant than others.
John Means avoided next Thursday’s arbitration hearing in New York by agreeing to a two-year contract, $5.925 million contract. The file-and-trial approach discarded again in a multi-year deal.
Means remains arbitration eligible in 2024, but his salary is set as he recovers from last month’s Tommy John surgery.
The Orioles offered $2.7 million back when figures were exchanged, and Means’ camp sought $3.1 million. The new deal pays $2.95 million in 2022.
The language in the contract was finalized yesterday, with momentum building over the last week.
“I’m glad we got something done,” he said, before shooting pool with teammates in the clubhouse. “No one ever wants to go to arbitration, so to be able to get this done before is a blessing. To have that comfort is nice.
“They obviously have faith in me and they obviously have faith that I’m going to work my butt off on the rehab and come back just as good, if not better, than I was before. Very satisfied.”
Manager Brandon Hyde informed Anthony Bemboom late last night that the backup catcher would be designated for assignment. He also had to tell rookie relievers Logan Gillaspie and Nick Vespi that they’d be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
One spot was needed for Ryan Mountcastle’s return to the active roster, the other for a fresh bullpen arm, which turned out to be Mike Baumann.
Hyde was dreading the conversation with Bemboom, who provided just what the club wanted behind the plate. And Robinson Chirinos now moves into a reserve role with much fewer starts.
“Start off with the two guys that have been doing this for the last month and a half,” Hyde said. “They did an outstanding job. Couldn’t be happier with Robby and Boomer, the way they’ve handled our pitching staff and really help guide the inexperienced pitchers so far. That being said, it’s exciting to have Adley here.
“I know he’s extremely excited and should be. It’s great for the city of Baltimore and the fan base. It’s somebody that Mike (Elias) took one-one and we have high hopes for. Looking forward to watching him play.
“There’s so much pressure put on him and there’s so much anticipation, that I just want him to relax and play the game like he did in high school. I understand that’s not realistic, but I don’t want him to put too much pressure on himself. I told him about enjoying today. With all the hoopla that’s going into it, I’ve seen it before. He’s a really mature guy, but it’s just, there’s so much anticipation that, it’s a day he’ll never forget and I just want him to relax and enjoy it as much as he can.”
Hyde isn’t setting a bar that Rutschman must clear to meet expectations. It’s the last thing he wants to do. And he offers warnings in the same media session where he praises Rutschman’s “serious intangibles behind the plate” and predicts that the former Oregon State standout will thrive
“It’s a 24-year-old kid that got to the big leagues and he’s extremely talented,” Hyde said. “Some guys come up and do well right away and some guys don’t and have great careers. This is going to be four or five at-bats tonight of thousands that he’s going to have in his career and I just want him to enjoy the moment. And I think the fans are going to embrace how he plays, how hard he plays, his personality, what kind of guy he is, and he’s going to be a good player.
“Whether that’s going to showcase tonight or next week, who knows? But he’s going to be a good player for a long time. … He’s fully invested in the pitching, whoever’s on the mound. Like our other guys, it matters to him about putting a zero up every inning. He’s going to try to grind and get guys through innings. And he’s obviously got tools, too, where he’s big, strong, can block, receives well, throws well. He’s also got the intangibles to be a winner behind the plate, and that’s something you can’t measure, but that’s something we’ve seen and that’s something we hear from other people who have had him.
“I just want him to play, and I know he’s going to do a good job behind the plate. Hitting in the big leagues is extremely difficult, especially as a young player right now, and I just want him to take as good at-bats as possible. Stay within yourself, let your athletic ability take over, and we’ll see. I’m not putting any sort of expectations on him offensively. I think the defense, there’s a learning curve defensively, too. Now you’re calling games and it’s major league lineups, and the game can speed up on you, no matter who you are. I’m trying to put zero expectations on him. Just want him to go play and learn from each game.”
Hyde’s always tried to embrace the future of this organization while keeping his arms around the 26 players inside his clubhouse. It becomes easier with Rutschman on the premises.
“It’s Mike’s first pick and it’s been a process from the day we got here,” Hyde said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs and we are still going through a lot of things, but it means a lot to have his first pick get here. You look at the lineup today, there’s a lot of young, talented guys, with a guy (Kyle Bradish) on the mound, as well. You want to believe we’re turning the corner and that we’re starting to play competitive AL East baseball and have the type of players who are going to be able to compete and win the division.”
The Orioles will monitor Rutschman, treat him like an everyday player, but also use him as the designated hitter and make sure he gets proper rest. Playing time probably will be mapped out five, six days in advance, and make adjustments later.
Chirinos has made 25 starts, knowing he’d eventually have to relinquish the primary job. Hyde didn’t find it necessary to speak with him about today’s roster move.
“I think Robinson is extremely aware of everything,” Hyde said. “He’s been around the block a time or two, and Robby knows.”
Getting Rutschman from Triple-A, Mountcastle from the injured list and Austin Hays from day-to-day status makes the order so much deeper, much more imposing beyond the first few names.
Rutschman is batting sixth, Tyler Nevin seventh – he’s 9-for-26 in his last seven games – Rougned Odor eighth and Jorge Mateo ninth.
“It was fun to write the lineup out today,” Hyde said. “It felt good to see so many young, talented guys that we have hopes for and that are going to be learning together at the major league level early on in their careers to be in there and to be more balanced, too, a more balanced lineup. It was a lot of fun to write.”
Odor hit the team’s second walk-off homer in two nights to beat the Rays in the series opener.
“I think we’re a lot more talented than we have been in the past, both position player-wise and on the mound,” Hyde said, “and it’s allowing us to stay in games.”