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Despite confidence in Adley Rutschman, Orioles plan to bring him along slowly

Despite confidence in Adley Rutschman, Orioles plan to bring him along slowly

If there was one word to describe Adley Rutschman during his introductory press conference at Camden Yards Tuesday afternoon, it was confidence.

The young catcher, selected by the Orioles with the top pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, exuded confidence while speaking with the media alongside GM Mike Elias. It wasn’t cockiness or brashness, and Rutschman made it clear he knows his work is far from over.

Simply, he knows what it’s going to take to succeed, and he knows he has the skills and attitude required to do so.

“Lot of pressure coming into the draft this year as the projected #1 pick,” Rutschman explained when asked about the pressure he has as the face of the Orioles rebuild. “I think I handled the pressure well. It’s about sticking to your process and becoming the best baseball player you can be.”

Elias agreed.

“He’s done a lot in his life and career so far to earn this opportunity. I’m confident he’s going to seize it,” the Orioles GM said.

Sticking to the process is a fitting line from Rutschman, who will start lower in the minor league system than many fans expected. But first, the Orioles are going to let him reap the benefits of his incredible collegiate career.

“He’s won a lot of awards this summer for his accomplishments and he’s got a few more still, so we’d like him to participate in some of those,” Elias told reporters when asked about Rutschman’s schedule for the rest of the year. “We’re going to send him to our spring training facility in Sarasota, and then he will join the team in the Gulf Coast League. Shortly thereafter, I expect him to join the Aberdeen IronBirds there and start his climb up the minor league ladder.”

Aberdeen, the short-season affiliate of the Orioles, as Rutschman’s initial destination comes as a surprise to some.

Considered the most advanced catching prospect to enter the draft in more than a decade, Rutschman is very polished both at the plate and behind it. One of the Orioles scouts even told reporters there are some who think he could head to the Majors *right now*.

That would be a little aggressive, but it seems reasonable to think Rutschman would find success with Low-A Delmarva or even High-A Frederick right away. Instead, the front office wants to bring him along slowly but surely. 

“We will let his play determine how fast he moves. Every player is different, every first round pick is different,” Elias explained. “I always believe in starting players at the lower level because it’s easy to transfer them if they’re performing well...Great facility there, lots of positives to starting his career there.”

If Rutschman dominates Aberdeen early, as many expect, he probably won’t stay there very long. But after just a few months of the Mike Elias regime, it’s obvious he values patience over aggressive call-ups, as he’s kept top prospects at Double-A and Triple-A early in 2019, and allowed 2018 first-round pick Grayson Rodriguez to obliterate the competition in Delmarva all season long.

There’s certainly no incentive to rush him. Rutschman now sees an opportunity for new career goals.

“It was always a goal of mine to be in this position,” the catcher said. “I never expected it, I respected the process of getting here. Now it’s about setting new goals and expectations. I’m excited for the opportunity to go out and play with baseball my job.”

It’s obvious why Rutschman is excited to begin his career. But is he also excited to make his first big purchase after reportedly receiving a record-breaking $8.1 million bonus?

“I’m pretty comfortable with my Honda Civic.”

Comfortable with his car, and comfortable with the expectations he now faces. Rutschman is ready to get going and excited to see where the journey takes him. 

So are the front office, teammates, and just about everyone else in Baltimore.

 

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Orioles announce family-friendly time changes to their regular season schedule

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Orioles announce family-friendly time changes to their regular season schedule

The Orioles announced significant changes to their regular-season schedule Thursday, making it more family-friendly during non-summer months. 

According to Joe Trezza, the Orioles will start at 6:35 p.m. ET for games that occur before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. Home games during the summer will retain their 7:05 p.m. ET start time.

Major League Baseball saw a record 3:05:35 average run time for games in 2019 despite changes made before 2018 to cut mound visits without pitching changes. 

With the average length of a game longer than ever and the fact that the Orioles have finished last in the AL East in three consecutive seasons, this is seemingly a smart move to get more fans out to Camden Yards. 

John Means finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting after a surprising season, so the Orioles days as the butt of most baseball-related jokes could be nearing an end. 

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Orioles' John Means falls short in AL Rookie of the Year voting

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Orioles' John Means falls short in AL Rookie of the Year voting

It was always going to be an uphill climb. Now? It’s reality.

John Means did not become the first Oriole to win the AL Rookie of the Year award in 20 years.

The surprising ace finished second behind Yordan Alvarez in this year’s voting. The result is less of a surprise, as Alvarez utterly dominated opponents at the plate all year long. From the moment he was promoted in June, Alvarez was one of the best hitters in baseball. 

By wRC+, an all-encompassing offensive metric, he was actually the second-best hitter in baseball behind only Mike Trout. And he owned the best OPS for a rookie in MLB history.

He accomplished all this while hitting in the middle of the most formidable lineup in baseball, a Houston unit that carried them to the American League pennant.

Alvarez didn’t enjoy the most prolific postseason of all-time, but he still pitched in with a few big hits against the Nationals in the World Series. His hot streak in the Fall Classic actually allowed him to lead the Astros in both batting average and OPS against the Nats.

For so many reasons, Alvarez earned his unanimous first-place finish. But don’t let that diminish Means’ year.

A non-prospect who was made the Orioles roster out of Spring Training, Means was the team’s lone All-Star representative this season. He held his own in the vaunted AL East, and was the clear-cut second-best rookie in the AL in 2019.

Means’ great season helped him receive 16 second-place votes, while no other candidate received more than six.

In a long, trying season, Means stood out as one of the most pleasant surprises for the Orioles in recent memory. The organization has long struggled to develop starting pitching, which has constantly placed them behind the 8-ball in their division. If the front office can unearth a few more hidden gems in the coming seasons, the rebuild may just work out after all.

Brandon Lowe of the Rays rounded out the top three finishers, while Eloy Jimenez finished fourth.

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