SALISBURY, Md. - Playing his first game Wednesday night for the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds, catcher Adley Rutschman produced a .500 OBP with two walks and caught a five-pitcher two-hitter with 12 strikeouts.
So, yeah, not a bad debut in the South Atlantic League.
Taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft by the Orioles, Rutschman began his pro career July 20, playing five games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. After 20 games with short-season Single-A Aberdeen, he moves up to Delmarva, where the Shorebirds are 85-41 and playoff-bound.
On his first night, he very much impressed his new manager, Delmarva’s Kyle Moore. He called and caught the 1-0 shutout win over Greensboro and handled five pitchers flawlessly.
“He did great,” said Moore. “He absolutely threw a rocket to second base for a caught stealing. Probably the most impressive thing for me was how he ran the staff and managed the game. He caught five guys he’s never caught before. Caught Grey Fenter, who’s 95 (mph) with a good breaking ball, didn’t even blink an eye at that. Caught Nick Vespi, who throws a left-handed cutter. Didn’t blink an eye at that. Some of our other guys have had trouble catching him before who had caught him for a month.
“Adley didn’t miss a ball and they all hit the sweet spot. This kid can catch. We threw bullpen arms at him, that is how the game worked out. And the last one was Ruben Garcia throwing 96 with a slider, and again Adley got him right through the inning. Continued to call a shutout and caught every ball on the sweet spot. Just looked super smooth. That is what it looks like right there.”
Moore said the hype over Rutschman’s arrival here was like nothing he’d seen before on the farm, but said the kid’s calm demeanor through it all has been impressive.
Rutschman hit .325 in 20 games with Aberdeen, ending his time there Monday night by going 5-for-5 with a solo homer and three-run triple. He finished with a 10-game hitting streak, batting .462 with eight extra-base hits and 14 RBIs.
“It was a good way to go out,” Rutschman said during a pregame interview in the Delmarva dugout. “Great game all around and obviously was able to go 5-for-5 that day, and that is always a good feeling.”
So how is it catching a five-pitcher two-hitter when you hardly know the other players yet?
“Makes you better every single time you catch a new pitcher,” he said. “You’ve got to learn their different qualities. It can be a little uncomfortable at first. But that is what you try to do in any sport and situation: try to make yourself as uncomfortable as possible. That way it makes everything become a little easier. As my grandpa used to say, ‘Be comfortable being uncomfortable.’ “
Rutschman is playing to strong reviews so far for how he is handling all the attention he has been getting - both from fans and media and just about everywhere he turns these days.
How has he done that so well?
“I think just categorizing everything and making sure I think about all the right things all the time,” Rutschman said. “When I am doing media stuff or fan interactions, that is its own thing. When I’m doing it, I’m all invested in that. But when I get on the field and doing my work, it’s all about getting my work in. Just making sure everything is in its right place and I don’t carry over one aspect into the other.”
Moore said the process of new player on new team was smooth as silk this week.
“I thought it meshed good yesterday, for sure. He fit right in and the guys took him right in,” Moore said. “I looked in there and they were teaching him a card game, so I knew we’d be fine here.”
Now that Rutschman is here, the Shorebirds would be thrilled if he can help lead them to their first South Atlantic League championship since 2000. After a great 48-21 first-half, Delmarva clinched its first playoff berth since 2005. Two nights ago the team set a club single-season record for wins.
In 2018, Rutschman led Oregon State to the College World Series title and he was named the CWS Most Outstanding Player. Rutschman was asked how a minor league playoff experience could benefit him.
“I don’t know yet, we’ll see,” he said. “I’m hoping that it’s going to be a great experience, and looking forward to some playoff baseball. Absolutely, you want to bring your best when your best is needed.”
After catching last night, Rutschman is batting fourth tonight as the designated hitter against Greensboro. He’ll face right-hander Steven Jennings, the No. 17 prospect in the Pirates farm system.
Moore said the plan here will be like it was for Rutschman at Aberdeen. He’ll catch three days a week and DH three days. Tomorrow, when the Shorebirds play at Hagerstown, Rutschman will catch Grayson Rodriguez in a pairing of the Orioles’ past two No. 1 picks.
Adley’s first AB: Rutschman drove in his first run with Delmarva in the first inning tonight. He batted with one out and runners on second and third and worked the count deep before grounding out to second base. He got an RBI and Delmarva trailed 2-1 after the first inning.
Second AB: Rutschman flied out to right field leading off the last of the fourth. Delmarva trails 7-1. Lefty starter Drew Rom allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Still no hits: Rutschman struck out swinging in the last of the sixth.
It’s a final: Greensboro beat Delmarva 11-3 tonight with Rom taking the loss as Delmarva falls to 85-42. Rutschman went 0-for-3 and through two games here is 0-for-5 with three walks.