SARASOTA, Fla. - The snapshots from yesterday morning’s media clubhouse availability included No. 1 prospect Adley Rutschman locked into separate conversations with catchers Bryan Holaday and Taylor Davis. Always a smile on his face. Appearing to be comfortable in his new surroundings.
No one treating him like a hotshot superstar fresh out of college who doesn’t belong here.
Rule 5 pitcher Michael Rucker is assigned the last spot, and the next row begins with Rule 5 pitcher Brandon Bailey. The only thing separating them is the fridge that holds waters and sports drinks, which isn’t an ideal locker for Rucker because the door swings open to his side.
Not that he’s complaining. He joked about resting his head on it.
Reliever Tanner Scott shaved his head, and his Markakis-like beard made him almost unrecognizable at first glance.
Infielder Pat Valaika dressed at his locker, no longer part of the 40-man roster but still inside the major league clubhouse.
The Orioles outrighted Valaika after putting him on waivers for a second time. They claimed him from the Rockies, lost him to the Diamondbacks, claimed him again and were able to keep him in the organization.
“Not very fun, to be honest,” he said. “Just having to plan where I’m going and then have that change and getting all these different apartments, so there’s a lot of moving parts to it. So I’m glad it’s over, I’m glad I’m here. Have boots on the ground and I can just start playing.”
Valaika can choose to view his situation in more of a positive light, that teams kept wanting him in the offseason.
“Yeah, it feels good to be wanted, for sure,” he said. “I’m glad I’m here. I think this is a really good situation for me personally, so just glad to be an Oriole.”
Sounds a lot like Trey Mancini, but without the waivers and outright.
The Orioles want to tap further into Mancini’s power despite the 83 home runs he’s hit in the last three seasons.
“It’s mostly approach-based,” he said. “I didn’t do too much with my swing. I think it’s just your mindset at the plate and setting your sights a little higher. A lot of times I’d try to hit a line drive over the second baseman’s head and now I just kind of raise it a little more. Whether you have your eye on the batter’s eye or something like that, I think that helps.
“Your approach at the plate really dictates a lot of the things that show up in advanced statistics.”
John Means shouldn’t have to change much after emerging last summer as the staff ace and the lone All-Star representative on the team. He wasn’t expected to be included on the opening day roster and now could be the starter on March 26.
Means is ready to share his experiences with pitchers in camp who are in a similar predicament. And he’s fine with taking on more of a leadership role, though it does seem funny, considering his lack of experience.
“I think John Means is a special case,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I just think he’s a real mature guy and ultra professional and has dealt with a lot of things and has had to earn everything that has come his way. Nothing was ever handed to John. I think that’s why there’s so much appreciation from him. That’s why he competes the way he does. He’s just always had to do that.
“I think leaders come from ... there’s different ways to lead. John Means’ story is super valuable to a lot of guys we have in that room, and I’m hoping that guys can learn from that and follow suit.”