Hess on Rutschman: “He’s the real deal”

Before pitcher David Hess took his first dive into free agency and came up with a minor league deal from the Rays, he spent the majority of his summer at the Orioles’ alternate camp site in Bowie.

The Orioles put Hess on their opening day roster and gave him one relief appearance in July and two in August - all of them on the road and in blowouts. There were the occasional taxi squad assignments, including the duration of the final trip of 2020. Otherwise, Hess worked out at Prince George’s Stadium, appeared in some intrasquad games and became more acquainted with prospects who are deemed essential for the rebuild.

Thumbnail image for David-Hess-Fires-vs-SF-Orange-Sidebar.jpgA status that eluded Hess, who cleared waivers in October and was outrighted off the 40-man roster. His minor league contract expired, which allowed him to enter free agency after seven years in the organization.

Hess was able to work again with catcher Adley Rutschman, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 First-Year Player Draft. Everything he saw verified Rutschman’s ranking among baseball’s top prospects.

The skills behind the plate. The swing. The attitude.

“I got to know him pretty well down there,” Hess said. “It’s hard to kind of sum it up in just a short thing, but he’s the real deal. I mean, he understands the game, he’s constantly trying to get better.

“Every time I threw a bullpen or threw to him in one of the sim games down there, he was constantly trying to figure out what he could do better or what we were trying to work on in that situation. What I was trying to work on in that outing and how he could help us get better. So as a catcher he has a really good understanding of building a relationship with the pitchers and trying to cater how he calls the game to their strengths. So that was really good.

“And then hitting, he swings it. It doesn’t matter what you throw.”

Hess found out firsthand while twice facing Rutschman in a game.

“In back-to-back at-bats, I got him to ground out or something like that on a changeup, and then the next at-bat he knew I was going to throw it and he got a base hit off it,” Hess said. “So he just understands the game, understands what he wants to do and he’s very good at executing it.”

Rutschman recently posted a TikTok video of himself hitting line drives and launching long flies from the left side of the plate while using a metal bat. Fifteen seconds of Rutschman assaulting baseballs.

The sound it produced was akin to a sledgehammer bouncing off an anvil.

Major League Baseball posted the video on its Twitter account, which brought the following response from reliever Isaac Mattson:

“He hits nukes with a wood bat... Metal is just plain unfair... thank God he’s with us.”

Hess is no longer on the same roster as the pitchers who gathered in Bowie, but he can share what he saw with his new teammates - including a couple of first-rounders who are barreling toward the top half of the Orioles’ rotation.

“The setup was kind of tough to see a lot of other guys throw, but I got to see a handful just in short spurts,” Hess said.

“I saw DL (Hall) throw and he’s just electric. He’s just got such a good arsenal and I think he’s only going to continue to get better. And Grayson (Rodriguez) is about as polished of a guy as I’ve seen in a while. Being as young as he is, he’s just got such a good feel for pitching as a whole. And it helps when you’re as big and strong and you’ve got as good of pitches as he does.

“There were a lot of other guys, too, that I noticed. Isaac Mattson looked really good while we were there. I didn’t get to see the guy (Kevin Smith) that the Orioles got from the Mets, but I heard he looked pretty good. So I think all in all there were a lot of guys who looked good and really utilized the time down there to get better, which is exactly what you’d want them to do.”

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