Before stopping in the crowd of media at Leidos Field, Adley Ratchman had to answer an important question from Aberdeen IronBirds General Manager Jack Graham: What did he want his walking song to be?
Rutchman, the main prospect for the Orioles, took his time answering other questions from reporters before turning his attention to the matter and settling on Kanye West’s “Gorgious”. At Ripken Stadium, Rutchman, 24, may not last long, entering minor league rehab Tuesday with Orioles partner High-A as he recovers from a right triceps strain he received on the cusp of major league spring training.
Rutchman caught on Tuesday and finished second among the Orioles’ other top prospects, with Connor Norby ahead of him and Cesar Prieto, Kobe Mayo and Colton Kauser behind him. He hit a hard lineout on the left in his first at-bat, then hit a double on the right from the left before working six pitches as a right-handed hitter in his final plate appearance, catching the first five innings. Mayo, a fourth-round pick in 2020 by the Baltimores and their number 10 prospect, added a couple of home runs to the IronBirds’ win.
“I wouldn’t be mad at myself if I was 0 out of 4 or 4 out of 4 today,” Ruchman said after the game. “It’s just trying to stay in the process and see a few pitches again and just try to get that timing back so we can keep moving forward and getting better.”
Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado was pleased with Rutchman’s performance, adding that he would likely also serve as a designated striker during his time at IronBirds as part of the organization’s plan to get him back to where he was before the injury.
“I think the way he plays the game is great for all of our guys, what it takes to get to the next level and keep growing,” Mercado said.
The competition marked Rutchman’s first High-A, missing a level due to the 2020 minor league cancellation but returning to Aberdeen. Weeks after being drafted by the Orioles in 2019, he joined what was then the Orioles’ short-season club for his first affiliate ball try. He quickly settled into the area, especially remembering the places where he ate.
“I think there has been a lot of success mentally and physically,” Ratchman said beforehand. “You always kind of think about what state you were in at the time, and I remember coming here and doing an interview in this dugout, and just wide-eyed and really didn’t understand what was going on, just trying to fit in. and make sure I don’t step on my toes, and just make sure I’m doing it right. But I think there’s definitely a little more confidence now in what we’re doing and how I want to approach my daily game.”
He acknowledged that patience, however, remains unfinished, at least when it comes to baseball. As Rutchman recovered from his injury, he watched Bobby Witt Jr. of Kansas City pick one pick behind him in 2019 and Detroit’s Spencer. Thorkelson, selected first overall a year later, makes his debut. If it wasn’t for his injury, Rutchman might already have done what the players he knows from playing with and against them have already done. He will likely return to Triple-A Norfolk, where he hit .312/.405/.490 in 43 games last year before the Orioles call him out.
“You worry about them more than anything,” Rutchman said. “I think that’s even more motivating to keep moving forward.”
Also joined Aberdeen from extended spring training southpaw D.L. Hall, Baltimore Avenue No. 3, who continues his progression from a stress response in his pitching elbow. Rutchman said he, Hall, and second prospect Grayson Rodriguez — the right-hander voted top prospect in baseball who starred at Norfolk — often talk about a future in which they all share a club at Camden Yards.
“I think it’s hard not to,” Rutchman said. “It’s one of those things that you try not to worry too much or think too much about the future, because I think we’re all trying to stay in the present as much as possible. You want to enjoy the time you have right now, especially since you’re in the minor leagues for two, three, no matter how old you are, and if you just constantly look at the big leagues and say, “Oh, I want to be here,” then I think you take for granted the time you have right now, especially to build relationships with the guys on the team. I think that’s the most important thing, but there’s definitely an aspect that we look forward to contributing to the team and trying and winning and winning together.”
Hall echoed this feeling.
“It’s definitely a thought that crosses our minds, I can’t lie,” Hall said. “It’s very interesting not only with us, but with all the guys that we have and with everyone that we have in this farm system, just a lot of talented guys. It’s great to know that the future of the Orioles is definitely in good hands.”
Describing himself as “weeks away before he’s really released,” Hall is unsure about specific plans for him at Aberdeen, saying he’ll move up a tier at a time from there until he hopefully reaches the majors. somewhere in this season. In the meantime, he said he paid for a MiLB TV subscription to keep up with Rodriguez and Tides.
“Told him he needed to start kicking off more people,” Hall said with a chuckle.
Like Rutchman, Hall said it’s hard to be patient, especially now that he’s approaching five years since he was drafted 21st overall. overall in 2017. He has described joining the Orioles this year as his “ultimate goal”, but he understands the organization’s caution towards him.
“It’s the kind of thing in baseball that you kind of get used to just because you see it happening with so many prospects and stuff like that,” Hall said. “They never rush you too hard. It’s been a long road, but I’m looking forward to this year and I can really make progress.”