#Adley Rutschman’s first 162 games on Baltimore’s roster show star catcher’s impact – Twin Cities #Usa #Miami #Nyc #Houston #Uk #Es

#Adley Rutschman’s first 162 games on Baltimore’s roster show star catcher’s impact – Twin Cities #Usa #Miami #Nyc #Houston #Uk #Es

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Kyle Gibson acknowledges that Adley Rutschman hasn’t quite surpassed the praise he heard about the Orioles’ young catcher throughout his free agency this winter.

Doing so might have been impossible.

“The reputation that I heard is tough to exceed because there were only good things said about him,” the veteran right-hander said, “but I would say he’s lived up to all of those expectations of just how he is as a person, first and foremost.

“You always go through ebbs and flows on the field, but he’s just the same guy all the time.”

That steadiness and consistency have paid off for Baltimore. On Sunday, the Orioles played their 162nd game — the length of a typical regular season — since promoting Rutschman, the 2019 first-overall draft pick and then baseball’s No. 1 prospect, to the majors last year. They have gone 93-69 in those games.

In the 162 games before Rutschman’s promotion, Baltimore was 51-111. The Orioles won 93 games total across the shortened 2020 season, the 2021 campaign and the first 40 games of 2022 before Rutschman arrived.

“It sure seems like he’s helped,” said Mike Elias, who used his first draft pick as Baltimore’s executive vice president and general manager on Rutschman. “He’s arguably in the conversation to be the best catcher in baseball right now, and catcher is one of those few positions where you’re impacting other players on the field, so that part of it’s hard to quantify, but I think anybody that sits here and watches Orioles games on a nightly basis can sense the impact he’s having and the value that he’s bringing in.

“He’s also somebody that — he’s 25. He’s getting better still.”

That alone is tantalizing. Including each of Baltimore’s first 40 games in this year’s 26-14 start, Rutschman has appeared in all but nine of those 162 contests. In them, he has hit .262/.376/.447, leading the American League in walks this year. Since Rutschman made his debut May 21 of last year, FanGraphs’ version of wins above replacement has only six position players entering Sunday as more valuable. None of them are catchers, though two more experienced backstops, Atlanta’s Sean Murphy and Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto, also rank in the timeframe’s top 10.

“I don’t think there’s any way to look around the league right now and see what he’s done over the past calendar year and make the argument that he’s not a top-five catcher or so in baseball right now,” Elias said. “I think as he continues to improve, he should be in the conversation for No. 1.”

The Orioles’ 93 victories with Rutschman are tied for the sixth-most for any team’s past 162 games, but he alone did not transform the Orioles, with improvements across the roster in that time. But to Elias’ point, perhaps no player has a greater influence on those around him than a catcher. James McCann, acquired in a trade this offseason to be Rutschman’s backup, said a demeanor such as Rutschman’s “radiates” through a clubhouse.

Baltimore entered Sunday 12th in the majors in OPS since Rutschman arrived, compared to 22nd in previous 162 games, while the pitching staff’s ERA with Rutschman on the roster has fallen from a league-worst 5.74 ERA to 4.04, ranking 16th. Also noting the steps forward other players took, outfielder Kyle Stowers, another 2019 draftee, said it’s “definitely no coincidence” the Orioles have improved as much as they have since adding Rutschman.

“He brings so much to the field, and he makes the team so much better, and I think it’s a combination of that and some of the guys kind of all coming together at the same time,” Stowers said. “Obviously, he’s been the face of rebuild, and he’s earned it. He’s a winning player.

“He’s as competitive as anyone I’ve met, too, so I think he wants to win, and that brings it out of the guys around him.”

Outfielders Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins and first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, players who endured the many losses that preceded Rutschman, said his on-base ability and work with the pitchers have had an impact on both sides of the ball, with each also noting his day-to-day consistency. Both Mountcastle and Stowers praised his humility.

“You would never know that he is who he is,” Mountcastle said.

Right-hander Tyler Wells, who partnered with Rutschman to throw seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball Saturday, described him as “definitely the heart” of the pitching staff. Wells pointed to how the fan base’s excitement around Rutschman funneled to the clubhouse, potentially helping fuel the improved play.

“A lot of the anticipation and hearing people talk about him, ‘We’re just ready for him to get there,’ … I think that that buzz kind of brought an energy back to Birdland,” Wells said. “I think that it brought an energy back to us as players because whenever we got fans that filled the stands, it is a special, special place to play at Camden Yards.

“Whenever Adley came up, I think that he brought a lot of that with him, and whether that was a direct correlation or indirect correlation, we just started playing better. We’re obviously extremely fortunate to have not just a great catcher, but a great person, and I think that he’s definitely a leader, and he will be a leader for a long time.”

Despite his late arrival last season — largely the byproduct of a right tricep strain suffered in spring training — Rutschman earned a full year of major league service time by finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year voting, meaning he is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2027 season. Elias declined to get into specifics on possible extensions for any players — the Orioles have given out only one guaranteed multi-year contract in his 4 1/2 years leading baseball operations — but said the front office is “working on ways to keep our organization healthy all the time, and that absolutely includes looking at augmenting the contracts of young players that we have.”

Given his impact, Rutschman would seem to be the worthiest of that group, though his major league career has not been without struggles. He started slowly last year before taking off in June, with the Orioles echoing, and just last week, he endured a hitless streak of 19 at-bats.

He ended it with a two-run home run on the hardest-hit ball of his nascent career.

“It’s not like he ever came out of himself and lost his approach at the plate or lost who he is as a person, and as a young guy, I feel like that’s really tough to do,” Gibson said. “It’s really tough to expect a lot out of yourself, have a lot expected of you from other people and go through a spot where you feel like you’re really not performing. To still be the same guy and to still show up each and every day and not have to wear that on your sleeve and not have that affect who you are was really impressive.

“I think it goes to show even more so how he’s able to be the guy that this organization needs him to be.”

What’s to come?

A four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels begins with a thrilling pitching matchup, as Orioles rookie Grayson Rodriguez, baseball’s top pitching prospect, faces two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. In Ohtani’s only start at Camden Yards, he allowed four runs in five innings in the game that ended the 2021 Orioles’ 19-game losing streak.

After that series, the Orioles head north to face the Toronto Blue Jays for the first time this season. As with the rest of the teams in the American League East, Baltimore figures to be jockeying with the Blue Jays for playoff positioning throughout the season.

What was good?

Gibson’s five-inning, four-run outing Sunday in which all seven hits he allowed were singles was basically a runaway for the worst outing the Orioles received from their rotation across three series against clubs that entered those matchups leading their divisions in the Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates. Gibson’s performance was the first time in those nine games a Baltimore starter gave up more than three runs and only the second time one of them gave up more than two. In the three series, the Orioles’ rotation went five innings each start and posted a collective 2.26 ERA.

“Our rotation seems to be stabilizing and improving,” Elias said Tuesday. The next three days, Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells didn’t allow an earned run over 19 combined innings.

What wasn’t?

With a home run on the final day of April, Jorge Mateo ended the month hitting .347 with a 1.062 OPS, but May has been far less kind to Baltimore’s shortstop. After a week in which he went 1-for-18, Mateo is hitting .105 with only one extra-base hit this month, striking out 12 times while walking once. He has gone from missing on only 20.7% of his swings against fastballs through April — a percentage that ranked in the middle of the league for players who swung at 50 or more — to 35.5% in May (16th highest, minimum 25 swings). Mateo’s whiff rate on sliders, including sweepers went from 18% to 40%, according to Baseball Savant.

On the farm

Asked about No. 3 prospect Colton Cowser on Tuesday, Elias said, “I don’t think we’re at that moment in time yet where we can say that he’s graduated Triple-A.” Cowser then hit .500/.613/.864 for the week with Norfolk, improving his overall batting line to .336/.477/.567 this season. Perhaps most notably, the 23-year-old outfielder performed excellently left-on-left, raising his OPS off left-handers from .747 to 1.077 over the course of last week alone.

Infielder Jordan Westburg, Baltimore’s No. 5 prospect, also continued to mash for the Tides, with three home runs on the week giving him six in his past 11 games. The organization’s 2022 minor league player of the year, Westburg is hitting .321 with a 1.021 OPS.

Angels at Orioles

Monday, 6:35 p.m.


Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM


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