More on Rutschman as Orioles' leadoff hitter (plus notes)

The idea intrigued Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. He just needed to find the exact time to launch it.

Writing catcher Adley Rutschman’s name second in the lineup was steeped in logic. It made total sense. A hitter with tremendous bat control and skills, able to work a count and use every inch of the field, hitting behind the table setter.

The results were magnificent and predictable. Rutschman performed like a first-overall draft pick. The tools that drew the Orioles to him shined in the majors.

So, why mess with it?

Cedric Mullins is on the injured list again, leaving a hole atop the order. Gunnar Henderson was filling it against right-handed starters. Austin Hays was the choice against left-handers.

Hyde wondered about Rutschman, not the first time that the thought crossed his mind. The player who led the club in walks by a wide margin, and with the highest on-base percentage – also ranking first among American League catchers.

“Something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while,” Hyde said. “It’s just because he is such a high on-base guy and just have him hit in front of Gunnar and (Anthony) Santander and (Ryan) O’Hearn. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and playing with it a little bit. Just give it a try.”

Rutschman wouldn’t be a prototypical leadoff hitter, with his four career stolen bases attained last season, but the Orioles don’t always adhere to tradition. They tend to think outside the batter’s box, with Mullins a notable exception.

So, Hyde pulled the trigger and yanked Rutschman ahead of Henderson. And Rutschman followed orders to remain the same player as before, with the same approach to hitting. He reached six times in the first two starts and extended his career-high on-base streak to 15 consecutive games before going 0-for-5 last night in the Orioles’ 4-2 win in Toronto.

"I know when I talked to him about it, I said, 'Don't change. Just because you're leading off the game, your at-bats are exactly the same and you're just hitting above Gunnar instead of hitting after him,'" Hyde said after Sunday night’s 9-3 victory over the Yankees. "He works the count so well, takes his walks. ... He's doing great. I just want him to not change a thing. You're just hitting in a different spot in the order."

"That's why he's there is he walks a lot, he's always putting a professional at-bat together," said Adam Frazier. "Getting to the plate as many times as possible should be a good thing for us, right?"


Rutschman’s 62 walks put him 18 ahead of Henderson. His .370 on-base percentage is far beyond Henderson’s .334, though the rookie homered and walked last night.

“I feel like there’s a mental stigma behind batting in different positions,” Rutschman said, “but I’m just trying to do the same exact thing, just in the leadoff spot.”

The Orioles don’t usually elevate catchers to the top. Chance Sisco was the last, on Aug. 19, 2020. Floyd Rayford did it once in 1984 and 1985. Curt Blefary hit leadoff April 17-19, 1968.

None played at Rutschman’s level.

Rutschman is on pace to become the first Orioles’ catcher to lead the club in walks and hits in the same season. He’s among three catchers who have led them in walks, doing it in 2022 and set to repeat this year.

Chris Hoiles drew 63 walks in 1994, and Mickey Tettleton finished with 106 in 1990.

Hyde hasn’t committed to keeping Rutschman at leadoff. It’s likely to continue against right-handers while Mullins is sidelined, but the real test comes tonight and Wednesday with the Blue Jays starting left-handers Hyun Jin Ryu, making his season debut following Tommy John surgery, and Yusei Kikuchi.

Is it Hays or Rutschman? And does Henderson, who bats from the left side, slide down the order?

* By hanging on last night, the Orioles will go 74 multi-game series in a row without being swept, tied for the fourth-longest streak in major league history. They’re 6-1 against the Blue Jays and 22-13 versus division opponents.

The Rays also won to stay 1 ½ games behind the Orioles.

Yennier Cano pitched again last night, allowed a solo homer to Whit Merrifield and walked two batters, and won’t be available tonight. Félix Bautista had to get a five-out save, throwing 35 pitches that probably eliminate him as an option, as well.

Danny Coulombe has thrown on back-to-back nights and in three of the last four.

The Orioles probably could use a fresh high-leverage reliever with the trade deadline arriving at 6 p.m.

* In 46 career games against Toronto, Ryan Mountcastle is batting .313 (55-for-176) with 10 doubles, 15 home runs, 39 RBIs and a .996 OPS. He doubled twice last night and drove in three runs.

Mountcastle's 55 hits, 10 doubles, 15 homers and 39 RBIs are his most against any team.

* Henderson's 17 home runs rank second among American League rookies behind the Rangers' Josh Jung (20) and are fourth in the majors.

His 45 RBIs were third in the AL behind Jung's 61 and Masataka Yoshida's 53 after the Orioles' win. His 79 hits were fourth behind Jung's 111, Yoshida's 110 and Esteury Ruiz's 86.


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