Orioles represented by Rutschman, Hays, Bautista and Cano at All-Star Game

For the first time since 2016, the Orioles will have more than one representative at the All-Star Game.

Try four.

Signs of improvement on the field and in the perceptions of fans and the industry are everywhere.

Catcher Adley Rutschman was chosen as an American League reserve behind starter Jonah Heim, who beat him in phase 2 of voting. Austin Hays will be a spare outfielder, and relievers Félix Bautista and Yennier Cano will be in the bullpen.

“How about that? So cool,” said manager Brandon Hyde.

“We had a team meeting this morning and it was my pleasure to let those guys know. All four great stories and super proud of all those guys.”

The 96th All-Star Game will be played July 11 at T-Mobile Park in Seattle. The team with the second-best record in the league will be quite visible.

“I think it shows that we have a lot of talented guys on this team, all guys who are deserving,” Rutschman said. “I think more so than anything, along with the talent, we just have a great group, and when you’re playing every single day, that’s really what matters.”

The number of Orioles selections didn’t surprise Hyde based on their stats and the team’s success.

“To be recognized by the peers for me, too, says everything about everybody recognizing around the league how good they have been this first half,” Hyde said.

“We’re (16) games over .500, and to do that in the American League East and our schedule, there’s got to be a lot of people doing things well. These last couple weeks haven’t been our best baseball, but we’ve had some really good individual performances in a tough sport and a tough league. It just says a lot.

“All four of these guys are four different stories. That’s the coolest thing, seeing their faces when you tell them. Cano didn’t even break with us. Bautista was in A ball two years ago. Hays has had this career so far of kind of being banged up a little bit. Rutsch, to me, I wish he was starting, but he’s going to have a lot of starts in the All-Star Game over his career. For them to all four experience their first All-Star Game and the stories that they have, a lot of people have put a lot of work in, it’s a credit to them and a pleasure for me to tell them.”

The Orioles made Rutschman the first-overall selection in the 2019 draft out of Oregon State and he debuted with them on May 21, 2022. The emergence from a long and painful rebuild seemed to coincide with his arrival.

Rutschman is batting .268 with 11 doubles, 11 home runs, 35 RBIs, a .415 slugging percentage and a .374 on-base percentage that leads the club. His 52 walks rank second in the American League. He began today’s eighth-inning rally with his 13th infield hit.

“What more can you say?” Hyde said. “The first full year, you go to the All-Star Game. Not only that, a finalist to start, and now he’s only going to get better. He’s still a young player in this league and he’s going to have ups and downs, but he’s got unbelievable makeup and is super driven, and is going to be a force in this league for a long time. He’s only going to get better from here.”

Rutschman prefers to talk about his teammates but had no choice this afternoon. This is his moment, too.

“Just being an All-Star is an unbelievable honor,” he said. “The fact that it’s in the Northwest, first big league stadium I ever went to, that means a lot, as well. Definitely a blessing to be in this position right now.

“Like anything else, it’s something that I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid, so I guess just to be able to have it is a blessing, now or anytime. I’m fortunate to be in the position I’m in.”

Losing out in phase 2 didn’t wreck Rutschman’s week.

“I’m more focused on what we have going here,” he said, shifting back into team mode. “To be an All-Star is an unbelievable honor, and I don’t think too much about it.”

Bautista is a less likely success story, a rookie last year at 27 who was released by the Marlins in 2015 and signed with the Orioles a year later. He climbed from High-A Aberdeen to Triple-A Norfolk in 2021, posting a combined 1.54 ERA in 46 2/3 innings but averaging 5.8 walks.

Bautista made the Opening Day roster in 2022, moved from a set-up role to closer, and finished with a 2.19 ERA, 0.929 WHIP, 15 saves, 3.2 walks per nine innings and 12.1 strikeouts. He has a 1.16 ERA and 0.96 WHIP this year, and he struck out the side today in the ninth to raise his total to 79 in 38 2/3 innings while recording his 22nd save in 27 opportunities.

“Honestly, I didn’t really have it in mind until two or three weeks ago once people starting talking about it and bringing it up to me. And then I was like, ‘Well, it seems like a good possibility,’” he said via interpreter Brandon Quinones.

“Just focusing on working hard, and then I really thought it was possible.”

The heat has always been there with Bautista, who’s thrown 156 of his 654 pitches at 100 mph or more this season. His strikeout of the Reds’ Spencer Steer at 103.3 mph was the fastest fastball by an Orioles pitcher in the Statcast era.

Factor in a devastating splitter, and Bautista can be unhittable, and worthy of the light show and hype video for his entrances at Camden Yards.

“I think about Bautista last year and us breaking camp with him because we had no idea what it was going to be,” Hyde said, before recounting how Dean Kremer strained his oblique in the third game of the season at Tropicana Field and the rookie made his debut in the second inning, tossing 1 1/3 scoreless with two strikeouts.

“Just dominating, and continuing to give him opportunities, and every inning would be a little later, a little later, and next thing you know, he’s closing for us after being how many years that he was in A ball and below. It’s amazing.”

The Mountain has climbed to the Midsummer Classic. The teenager who was released, kept maturing, and grew into a dominant closer.

“To tell you the truth, leading up to 2021, there were some doubts still in my mind,” he said. “And then, thankfully, that year I was able to break out a little bit, and ever since then I felt a lot more comfortable and feel a lot better about the work I’ve been able to put together and what I’ve been able to do. And ever since that year, I’ve definitely seen this vision for myself, being able to make it to the All-Star Game.”

Cano, 29, is a product of the Jorge López trade to the Twins at last summer’s deadline, counted among the four pitchers obtained. He didn’t appear in a game this season until April 14 against the White Sox in Chicago, when he tossed 1 2/3 scoreless and hitless innings, returned the next day and retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the ninth.

Control also was an issue for Cano in the minors. He appeared in three games with the Orioles last season and allowed nine runs and nine hits with five walks and seven strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.

No real clues that he’d emerge as an All-Star in 2023, but he’s posted a 1.12 ERA and 0.843 WHIP with 28 hits, six walks and 37 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings, and he leads the club with 18 holds. He’s allowed only five runs, and his soaring confidence shows with his mannerisms on the mound, including the straddle and stare after strikeouts.

“I think it’s one of the nicest moments of my entire life,” he said via Quinones. “This is what we fight for, this is what we work for, and I think it’s one of the most incredible moments baseball has given back to me.”

Cano said he was “super nervous” when given the news, and he kept sweating over it later, “just because I can’t believe that it’s actually happening.”

“Happy I was able to tell my family, and a lot of them kind of knew this was coming to me,” he said, “but honestly, I can’t believe it’s real.”

Asked what Cano would have said earlier in the season if told that he’d be an All-Star, he smiled and replied, “To be honest, I would have told you ‘no.’”

“Starting out in Triple-A, it wasn’t really something at the forefront of my mind, but I was just focused on doing my work, taking care of business, having a good season overall,” he said. “Just really happy that it paid off and baseball gives this back to me.”

Yesterday began with Cano tied for second among major league relievers with a 1.5 fWAR. His streak of 20 straight games without a walk to begin the season was the second-longest in Orioles history behind Jamie Walker’s 22 in 2009. He set the club mark with 32 hitless at-bats to start the season.

“It’s amazing, it really is,” Hyde said.

“The trade, him having a tough time throwing strikes in the big leagues with the Twins and with us last year. Me and Fredi (González) were just talking about it in the clubhouse. He had a son who was born mid-to-late spring, and I remember he left for a few days and came back with this huge smile on his face about his son being born. He pitched a couple days later and it was like lights out. Kind of joked with him about it, 'Your son being born and look at the way you’re pitching.' And then he goes to Triple-A and he does really well.

“Just took a flier on him in Chicago. We needed a right-on-right guy against a real right-handed lineup and see if this guy could get some big outs for us against some really good right-handed hitters. He does that and more, and he’s continued to do it. And with a great personality. A great person.”

The duo has created a dominant back end of the bullpen.

“Just incredible makeup, the way both of these guys are built,” Hyde said. “It’s not easy to pitch in the high-leverage spots out of the bullpen, especially when you don’t have a ton of experience. So, for them to do what they’ve done, Bautista the last two years and Cano this year, is amazing.”

Perhaps Rutschman will be able to catch Bautista and Cano at T-Mobile Park.

“I hope that happens,” Hyde said. “I hope that Adley gets the second half of the game and those two guys come into the game. That would be awesome. It would be a proud moment, no doubt.”

“I’m really hoping so,” Rutschman said. “It’s awesome that they’re both All-Stars and they deserve it. It’s really cool. They’re both phenomenal pitchers, both in their own unique way, and to be able to catch them on a daily basis is a true pleasure and super fun. And just the way they handled their business. And they’re great teammates, as well.”

Hays, 27, was a third-round selection in 2016 out of Jacksonville University whose career was stalled multiple times due to injuries, in both the minors and majors. He avoided the injured list last summer, playing through a sore wrist in the second half, and sustained a deep gash on his right middle finger earlier this season while attempting to bunt.

The first half of 2022 was impressive, with Hays batting .270/.325/.454 in 85 games, but he slumped to .220/.276/.349 in 60 games after the break. He’s batting .312/.352/.491 this season with 22 doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 34 RBIs in 76 games, starting the day ranked third in average in the American League. He has 27 multi-hit games after totaling 32 in 145 games last season.

Hays collided with Twins first baseman Donavan Solano today in the second inning, and Aaron Hicks replaced him in left field in the top of the fourth. Solano came off the bag to catch third baseman Jose Miranda’s throw and make the tag, leading him into Hays’ path.

Both players stayed in the game until Hays’ removal two innings later with a bruised left hip. Hays is day-to-day.

He doesn’t have time for the pain.

“I think back to our first spring (in 2019) and I remember we sent him to Triple-A and he got hurt right away in a minor league spring training game right at the end of camp,” Hyde said earlier today. “I was so impressed with his tools. The way he could play center field and how he could hit the ball hard to both sides of the field. For me, not having ever seen him before, I was incredibly impressed by him and (Anthony) Santander.

“You would see flashes of what Haysy could do, flashes of good at-bats. He could always play defense, but it was more of consistently taking really good at-bats at the big league level. For me, this has been, by far, his best year from an at-bat-to-at-bat standpoint, of him having a really good plan at the plate and trusting it and carrying it through on a nightly basis. And I think a lot of it has had to do with, he has stayed healthy and stayed in the lineup for a long time now.

“Like I’ve said a million times in here, the second half, he did not play healthy, but he was going to grind it out. And I give him a ton of credit for that because a lot of guys would not have done that. We were winning, he wanted to be a part of it, he wanted to post, he knew he could impact us defensively, and he did. And he’s going to take the best at-bats that he possibly could while not feeling 100 percent, especially in your hand area, which is not easy to play baseball with. And this year, he’s just been really, really consistent offensively and played the great defense he always does.”

The announcement from Hyde this morning made Hays’ day. A contusion wasn’t going to ruin it.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “I think it just goes into all the work that I did this offseason and the adjustments that I made, being able to come in and just be very consistent in the first half this year. Just be noticed for the work that I’ve done. Just being a part of what this organization stands for and being a winning ballclub now and just being a big piece of that. I think it all goes into being selected to this. So, it’s a huge honor for myself, and just being a part of this organization, being able to wear the Orioles uniform on All-Star weekend.”

The selection could be most impactful to Hays, considering how long he’s been here and how much he’s seen, the good times and the bad.

“When I got drafted, this locker room was all All-Stars. It was a star-studded locker room,” he said. “When I was in the minor leagues, I looked up to the guys who were in the outfield here, Jonesy (Adam Jones) specifically. So, to share something like this with ‘All-Star’ next to my name, as those Orioles did when I first got drafted and first got called up and being around those guys, to feel like I’m kind of part of that brotherhood now means a lot to me. Especially going through those tough years, and now the team’s turned it around, we’re playing a lot better baseball, winning a lot more games. To be an All-Star on a good team definitely means a lot.”

Hays admitted that he wasn’t expected to make it.

“I knew for sure Adley would be in there, and what Félix and Cano have done this year has been incredible,” he said. “I feel like if we have a one-run lead going past the seventh inning, it’s light out, it’s just their time to come in and close the door like they always do. I felt like they were all 100 percent going to get in. I didn’t think I was going to, so it kind of caught me off guard and it was just a special moment for me to be able to share it in the locker room with all the guys.”

Hyde announced Rutschman, Bautista and Cano first.

“I didn’t know if that’s where the list stopped or not,” Hays said. “And then I got to hear my name. It was cool.”

López represented the Orioles last summer before his trade to Minnesota. Cedric Mullins started in center field in 2021 due to Mike Trout’s injury.

The last multi-representation involved catcher Matt Wieters, third baseman Manny Machado, outfielder Mark Trumbo, and relievers Zack Britton and Brad Brach.

“It’s just fun to see your guys get recognized, and fun to see your guys on the national stage, and other people watching,” Hyde said.

“I’ve been fortunate to be at one All-Star Game, in 2017 (with the Cubs), and it’s just an amazing experience. Even these guys, they’re going to walk around and be like, ‘That’s so and so, that’s so and so.’ And for them to be on that level - and rightfully so, and they are all on that level - it’s awesome for us to see them be able to enjoy that.”

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