It’s a huge day in Birdland with the arrival of the No. 1 prospect in baseball to the Orioles. Adley Rutschman will catch and bat sixth tonight to make his major league debut as the Orioles host the Rays.
A veteran like Trey Mancini noted this takes the rebuilding phase to another level. The organization, for want of a better phrase, is getting on with it.
“Yeah, I think so,” Mancini said this afternoon in the clubhouse. “It’s not something that happens overnight, obviously. But it’s not a thing where you can circle like, ‘Oh in this year, we are going to start competing.’ It’s something that just happens over time and it starts by establishing the culture that we have here. And when you do that and do things the right way, sometimes you can compete a little earlier than you think. And we’re going to see more guys like Adley come up here over the next year or so. And that is really exciting, and for the fans, too. I know they have been waiting for this day for a long time.
“It’s a really exciting day for the franchise and most importantly for Adley. I’m expecting it to be a great atmosphere tonight. I think he’s going to be able to handle it all really well. It’s a lot of attention and a big day, but when it gets close to game time, it’s basically like any other game that you’ve played in your career. You have to treat it like that even though there will be a huge adrenaline rush for him. It’s a day you want to soak in no matter what. It’s one of the more special days of your life and it goes by quickly.”
The Orioles have posted back-to-back walk-off wins for the first time since June 6-7, 2017 against Pittsburgh and the first time with homers ending the game since Aug. 14-15, 2015 versus Oakland.
Mancini believes Rutschman is entering a great clubhouse where he will be able to thrive.
“I think it’s been great all year," he said. "Especially coming off two really exciting wins after a tough losing streak. I thought yesterday was quite possibly the best win I’ve been a part of in my time here. It really sticks out. Just really proud of the way this team fights. No matter what our record is, we’ve got a good thing going here. The guys all pull for each other and it’s a great atmosphere. That is great for guys like Adley today coming up. We are really staring to establish a good culture here.“
Mancini could sense the buzz in the city today about baseball.
“My sister is in town and my best friend from college," he said. "And in talking to them earlier, I was saying this is one of the biggest days in town in a long time. Maybe since the 2014 playoffs or something like that. But it’s been a while since there has been this much excitement I feel like in the city."
Now Rutschman will try to play a baseball game amid all that buzz and hype.
“I think as the day goes on and when you get about two hours from game time, and things quiet down a lot, you’re able to zone in a little more," said Mancini. "It naturally happens. There is enough time to take a deep breath and relax a bit, and he’ll be able to do that before the game."
The Orioles not only add Rutschman to their lineup tonight but get Ryan Mountcastle back off the injured list. He's been out with a left wrist forearm strain and last played May 10 at St. Louis.
“Feels good. An exciting day and I’m sure a lot of people are here for me coming back off the IL," Mountcastle said with a laugh.
“Yeah. Feel great, ready to go. Completely healthy. I’m excited."
And excited about a big day for the Orioles.
“It’s great. To see these young guys coming up and show what they’ve got, I’m excited to see Adley and what he’s got to show."
Mountcastle remembers his own debut on Aug. 21, 2020 against Boston.
“It was pretty nuts," he said. "For me, there were no fans allowed in then, so maybe a little different than tonight. But no, it was definitely nerve-wracking, exciting, a roller coaster of emotion. So I’m sure he’s the same way. But I’m excited for him and ready for him to get going. He’s handled everything well through the minor leagues. He’s a down-to-earth guy, very humble and he’s a great addition to the team."
And he helps round out the lineup and make it more dangerous.
“We’re excited. Sure nice to have a little protection behind me today, that’s for sure," he said.
Mountcastle is batting .268/.299/.402 with a .701 OPS in 28 games and went 10-for-24 his last six games before getting hurt.