SALISBURY, Md. - Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds manager Kyle Moore wasn’t quite sure what to expect. He knew his first-place team would be adding a major talent when they got catcher Adley Rutschman this week.
The hype and attention that has followed the player taken No. 1 overall in the June draft was now headed for the shore.
“There was a little bit of holding your breath, like how is this going to go?” Moore said before Thursday’s game. “But when you’re getting a player like Adley, he flips the field completely. He’s the best player on the field. That is always a good feeling, to get that player in your clubhouse.
“It was refreshing to sit down and talk to him and see how cool and calm he was. Because the hype is unbelievable. I’ve never seen hype like this. They put a barricade around our cars in the parking lot. I was like, ‘Where do I park?’ But all of that said, the kid is cool and calm and that’s refreshing for me.”
Parking problems aside, Rutschman jumped right in with his new team Wednesday night in his first Delmarva game. He went 0-for-2 with two walks and caught a five-pitcher two-hitter with 12 strikeouts. It was Delmarva’s 18th shutout. Last night, batting fourth as the designated hitter, he went 0-for-3 with a swinging strikeout and an RBI groundout. So he’s 0-for-5 in his first two games with three walks and an RBI for the 85-42 Shorebirds.
Not only did Rutschman call a strong game behind the plate Wednesday, Moore said, but he even quickly picked up on the pregame scouting report and was able to use it well during the game.
“It was awesome,” he said. “Justin Ramsey (Shorebirds pitching coach) went over the scouting report with him and I was really impressed how well he called a game based on some holes in the other guys’ swings that we identified. Which sometimes, when you throw nine (opponent) batters right at somebody and you’ve got a lot going on, you might not remember what you had talked about. But he did a great job. He went in on some guys where the only hole was in. We had one meeting and he got it like that. The stuff he retained so quickly was impressive.”
Rutschman, in a pregame interview yesterday in the Delmarva dugout, said he is looking forward to further working with advance stats and data and scouting reports with the Orioles.
“A lot of the analytics now for me are very new,” said the 21-year-old Rutschman. “So I’m trying to pick up on it as fast as I can. I just try to absorb everything and I’ll ask for help when I need it. Just making sure that I understand I don’t know everything, so I try to pick up on any new information. If I need to come back in the dugout and look at it, I will. But I trust the process that they have and I know that all the information that they have is better than anything I can do on my own.”
According to Delmarva outfielder Johnny Rizer, the O’s 2019 seventh-round pick from TCU, Rutschman quickly fit in with his new club here.
“You see Adley and everyone knows he was the No. 1 overall pick and that’s pretty cool,” said Rizer. “But he’s just like any other guy. He’s worked hard to get where he’s at. He came from a winning program. Oregon State won a national championship. He knows what it takes. He’s a good fit.”
While it looked like Rutschman had been catching the Delmarva staff all year on Wednesday, he obviously has not. But he embraces the challenge to get to know how each individual on the team likes to pitch.
“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.’ “
Tonight, Rutschman is expected to catch right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (9-3, 2.59 ERA) as the Shorebirds begin a series in Hagerstown. It will be a pairing of the last two Orioles No. 1 draft selections.
A Delmarva team that has been one of the best in the minors this year would like to end this season with a South Atlantic League championship. After winning their division in the first half, they’ll play in a best-of-three semifinal series beginning Sept. 5. They’ll host a playoff game at Perdue Stadium for the first time since 2005 on Sept. 6 and host Game 3 in that opening round if necessary.
For a player that was the Most Outstanding Player in the College World Series as Oregon State won it in 2018, taking part in the minor league playoffs next month should be pretty special.
“I’m hoping that it’s going to be a great experience and looking forward to playing some playoff baseball,” said Rutschman. “I just try to stay with the same thing - just elevate my mindset (in big games) - and I think the rest takes care of itself. Absolutely, you want to bring your best when your best is needed.”