The day has arrived.
And so has Adley Rutschman.
The first overall pick in the 2019 First-Year Player Draft has ditched the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and is moving up one level to short-season Single-A Aberdeen.
Florida couldn’t hold the kid. Time to get him in Maryland.
Rutschman would have reported a day earlier, but only for batting practice, if not for Thursday’s rainout. The Orioles wanted him to catch in one more game, which he did yesterday.
Because he was behind the plate, there’s a good chance that he serves as the designated hitter tonight against Hudson Valley. He’s expected to catch Sunday afternoon, with first pitch at 4:05 p.m.
The media is allowed to interview Rutschman today after batting practice and I’ll be there.
Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. has a previous commitment and won’t be able to attend.
Rutschman went 0-for-3 yesterday with an RBI, walk and a throwing error, his first as a professional. He was 3-for-14 with a home run, three RBIs and a stolen base in five GCL games.
The Orioles will decide later whether Rutschman gets bumped up to the South Atlantic League and joins Single-A Delmarva in the playoffs. Much of it will depend on how he’s feeling physically. How his elbow and shoulder are responding to the workload.
Rutschman will play some first base this summer besides catching and serving as designated hitter.
* Pitcher Nate Karns was the first major league free agent signed by executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. He totally made sense as a relatively low-risk rotation candidate who also could be used out of the bullpen and had strikeout capabilities.
It just didn’t work out. Health was an issue again.
The Orioles reinstated Karns from the 60-day injured list yesterday and designated him for assignment, believing that he wasn’t ready to contribute at the major league level while he tried to return from a strained right forearm.
Karns’ velocity was way down. He wasn’t commanding his pitches as he had done while healthy. A scout from outside the organization who watched one of his recent rehab starts in the minors was unimpressed.
Guaranteed $800,000 with a possible $200,000 in incentives from the deal he signed on Feb. 7, Karns lasted only four games with the Orioles. It was a bad sign - the other kind - when they decided early in spring training that he’d need to pitch out of the bullpen to improve the chances of holding up physically. He was used twice as an opener and twice in relief during the season and allowed an unearned run in 5 1/3 innings with seven hits and three walks.
A nice guy who really wanted to be part of the pitching staff and the clubhouse. It’s a shame that his body let him down again.
The Orioles knew his injury history. They rolled the dice. Now they’ve moved to another table.
* Stevie Wilkerson is emerging as a fan and media favorite, his personality lighting up the clubhouse and his versatility now off the charts.
Moving around the infield and outfield is impressive, though he rarely steps foot in the former. But it’s the pitching that’s the true separator.
His ball registers in the mid-50s and stymies Statcast, which can’t accurately identify anything he’s throwing. Because he’s just lobbing it in there and hoping for strikes.
Facing future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols with two outs in the bottom of the 16th inning of Thursday’s marathon, Wilkerson went 54 mph for a strike and 54 mph for a foul ball behind the plate. He hopped off the mound after thinking that he caught the outside corner with the next pitch and retired Pujols on a harmless fly ball to center field.
Wilkerson pointed at one of his infielders, the smile stretching ear to ear, and went through the congratulatory line.
A second 1-2-3 inning in three relief appearances. Just crazy.
Add “Stevie Saves” to his growing list of nicknames.
I don’t think “Stevie’s Sore” is a concern.
There’s no reason to withhold Wilkerson until it’s an emergency. He won’t blow out his arm because he isn’t throwing with maximum force - or anywhere close to it. The guy can lob for hours.
I’d trust him with a lead.
Too bad for Wilkerson that he isn’t arbitration eligible because he’s building a fascinating case.
* While checking on available pitchers at Triple-A Norfolk who could have been under consideration for promotions to aid a taxed bullpen, I noticed that Luis Ortiz remains on the seven-day injured list and hasn’t pitched since July 2.
Ortiz allowed one earned run in five innings against Gwinnett and went on the IL with an undisclosed injury.
The Orioles gave Ortiz a start on June 14 against the Red Sox and he allowed four runs and four hits in 3 1/3 innings. He walked five batters and struck out three.
Ortiz has made 14 starts with Norfolk and gone 3-7 with a 6.38 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in 66 1/3 innings.
I’ve heard that Ortiz hasn’t been around the team much since the break. He’s been rehabbing for the last week at the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota.