Use him before they lose him.
Both teams had a full outfield, which in itself is a noteworthy achievement. Mountcastle, Andrew Velazquez and Mason Williams for the team wearing white. DJ Stewart, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins for the team in orange.
Three actual umpires worked the game, which included five scoreless innings from left-hander Tommy Milone, who retired 15 of 16 batters. Opposing starter Thomas Eshelman didn’t allow a run until the top of the fourth on consecutive singles by Chris Davis and Renato Núñez and Stewart’s double play grounder.
Eshelman worked five innings and left with his team down 1-0. He allowed five hits, walked one batter and struck out four.
Mountcastle is destined for the alternate camp in Bowie, but he made the home side’s lineup tonight and went 0-for-2. He flied to the track in left-center field in the bottom of the second after Dilson Herrera’s two-out double off Milone and lined to center field against Paul Fry leading off the sixth.
The Orioles optioned Mountcastle a week after they shut down the Sarasota complex and he had to find ways to work out until they placed him in their player pool.
“Once the gym opened back up where I was at, which was probably about a week after I got home, I started going in there, started going to the field and doing stuff with some of my buddies at the field doing baseball-related activities,” he said today. “Hitting and taking pop flies and just trying to stay ready.”
Repetitions in the outfield are most important for Mountcastle, who finally may be settled at one position. He got regular work in left during spring training and has played it in intrasquad games rather than start at the infield corners.
Mountcastle slipped tonight while trying to get in front of José Iglesias’ line drive in the top of the sixth inning and took an awkward tumble as the veteran motored into third base with an RBI triple. Hector Velázquez surrendered another run on Davis’ RBI single to left-center field.
“There’s a lot that goes into the outfield,” Mountcastle said. “Just getting better routes. That’s all I was trying to do. Being able to put my head down and run and look up and being able to find the ball, stuff like that, as opposed to the infield. When you get a pop fly in the infield, you’ve got your eyes on it the entire time, but when you’ve really got to put your head down and run in the outfield, it’s a little bit more tough.”
The job doesn’t get easier in the majors with the adjustments to the lights and a third deck, but Mountcastle is going to find out. His debut seems like a certainty later in the summer as long as he’s healthy.
“That’s what I’m working toward and I really hope I do get a shot this year. I’m going to keep working hard to try to make that dream come true,” he said.
“I worked my butt off my entire life just to be a big leaguer and I want to be able to be up there and help the team win. I think I bring enough to the table to do that and hopefully I get that call this year.”
Impressions must be made at Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie. He’s going to have lots of eyes on him, even if they don’t belong to manager Brandon Hyde and his coaching staff.
“I think I’ve made some strides at positions they want me to improve on and I showed them out here in intrasquad games and in practice,” Mountcastle said. “It’s definitely a big deal right now trying to show them I can help them win games.”
The Orioles want Mountcastle to increase his walk total and cut down on the strikeouts. Improvements in plate discipline must come without the opportunity to play for Triple-A Norfolk.
It can be done via intrasquad games in camp and through further instruction.
“Just getting more live at-bats, getting more experience and just know what I’m looking for instead of just going up without much of a plan,” he said. “You’ve got to go up there with a plan and try to execute that plan, and I think being able to swing at your pitch definitely helps to execute your plan.”
Fans would have booed except they aren’t allowed inside.
Rutschman, who served as the designated hitter, will join Mountcastle at the alternate camp. He collected a couple of plate appearances over the weekend and garnered more tonight, grounding a single into center field off Eshelman in the third inning and taking a called third strike to close out the fifth.
“Being able to stand in the box, see big league arms and just take it all in for the first time, it’s something you never get back,” Rutschman said earlier today. “It just reminds me of the first time I stood in at the College World Series, the first time I stood in at a college stadium with the (Oregon State) Beavers, and you just never get that first time back.
“I’m hoping there’s going to be another first time at every single stadium, whenever it is. But just to have that first feeling is unbelievable. It’s just so exciting.”
Herrera represented the only baserunner against Milone, who appears to be in a three-way competition with Asher Wojciechowski and Kohl Stewart for the last two spots in the rotation. Wojciechowski threw live batting practice Sunday, which could line him up as the fourth starter, but Hyde said there’s a long way to go before he’s able to finalize the rotation.
Velázquez threw a second inning tonight when the game switched to live batting practice. Rutschman struck out.
Cody Carroll also was given an inning.