The Nationals have agreed to terms with 2019 first-round draft pick right-handed pitcher Jackson Rutledge out of San Jacinto North junior college.
The 6-foot-8, 250-pound, starter finished his sophomore season at San Jacinto with a 9-2 record and a 0.87 ERA. He struck out 134, walked 30 and had four complete games in 13 starts, and pitched 82 2/3 innings total. He surrendered one homer the whole season.
Monday was his first visit to D.C., and he agreed to become a Washington National, accompanied by his parents and his two sisters, Rebekah and Isabel.
“It’s really just a dream come true,” Rutledge said. “You get drafted but then I had to wait there. Not a fun time waiting, I’m ready to get after it and start playing some professional baseball.”
Rutledge confirmed he will head to Florida and join up with the rookie-level Gulf Coast Nationals. The next question is how long Rutledge will stay with that squad.
“I’m going to start out in Florida, at the GCL, heading there tomorrow,” Rutledge confirmed. “That’ll be a short, getting-everything-back-into-shape sort of thing, then we’ll see where I go after that.”
Rutledge has stayed in game shape and has continued baseball-related activities even though San Jacinto’s season ended over a month ago, May 5.
“I’m still throwing on the side, working on my curveball, changeup, adding a few pounds back before I hit the pro season,” Rutledge said. “When things are going well I really feel in control of the game. I feel like I’m setting the game at my own pace. The hitters feel uncomfortable because of that. I’m not a guy that’s going to get up and start yelling and get energy like that. I’m more of a consistent, kind of flat, body-language kind of guy.”
Rutledge has gained valuable knowledge by rubbing elbows with former big leaguers including Andy Benes, Woody Williams and former Nats left-hander Ross Detwiler.
“So, one of my summer ball coaches when I was in high school was Andy Benes, and I got to learn a lot from him,” Rutledge said. “He’s very competitive, great guy. And one of our assistant coaches at San Jac was Woody Williams. He obviously has a ton of experience, and a great guy that I learned a lot from.
“(Detwiler and I) actually worked out of the same place this offseason. I happened to get him to play catch with me one day, and he showed me a changeup that’s actually been working pretty well for me.”
Rutledge has not caught up with Detwiler just yet to get his reaction after the Nats drafted the St. Louis native June 3. He said Williams helped him focus on paying attention on details to get better at his craft.
“I definitely wouldn’t be quite where I am if it weren’t for him,” Rutledge said of Williams’ influence. “He taught me the small things about the game because that’s what he was as a player. He was a guy who beat you on the small things, beat you with pitch ability. So, stuff like that I got to learn from him a lot and took a lot away from it.”
Although the Nationals haven’t officially announced it, Rutledge will very likely be on the same GCL Nats team to begin the season with 2018 first-round pick Mason Denaburg, who has worked on improving his mechanics during extended spring training. The GCL Nats season begins in one week.