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Orioles minor league recap 7/21: Adley Rutschman debuts! And homers!

It’s all happening!

MLB: San Diego Padres at Baltimore Orioles
This is not a drill. Adley Rutschman is officially on the field in the Baltimore Orioles organization.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Normally we start these minor league recaps with Triple-A Norfolk and work our way down the organizational ladder. But today, I’m starting all the way at the bottom with the Gulf Coast League Orioles. Because, ladies and gentlemen, Adley Rutschman took the field for the first time as a professional.

The Birds’ No. 1 prospect, who was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2019 draft, hadn’t played since signing with the club June 24, getting off to a late start due to a bout of mononucleosis. Yesterday, though, Rutschman was in the GCL Orioles lineup for his pro debut, batting fifth and DHing.

The Orioles didn’t announce Rutschman’s debut ahead of time, so there was little fanfare before the fact and barely any media presence. Fortunately, Baseball America’s Josh Norris was on hand to document the occasion.

Rutschman lined out to short in his first professional at-bat. In his second, he swatted a drive to deep right that was hauled in on the warning track.

In his third at-bat, he hit it just a bit farther.

Let’s just put him in the Hall of Fame right now.

Here’s another angle:

I’m doing the Homer Simpson drool.

All told, Rutschman went 1-for-4, batting left-handed in all four plate appearances. He’s expected to play just a couple of games in the GCL before reporting to Aberdeen to make his Maryland debut.

Among other recent high draftees in the GCL, second round pick Gunnar Henderson had a hitless pinch-hit appearance and is batting .118 (2-for-17). Fifth rounder Darell Hernaiz was 1-for-2 with two walks in this game and is hitting .120 with a .453 OPS. The GCL Orioles lost this one, 6-4, but are 14-6 this season.

Norfolk Coffee 12, Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies) 11

Yes, the Norfolk Coffee. The Tides changed their name for the day. Now, what if I told you that they scored 10 runs in the second inning, and still barely eked out a win by the skin of their teeth? Yeah, it was that kind of a game.

Let’s start with the good part: that incredible bottom of the second. Norfolk sent 14 hitters to the plate and six of them got hits, while the IronPigs completely melted down by walking three batters, plunking two, and also committing two errors, a passed ball, and a balk, and uncorking a wild pitch. Thanks for all the free runs, guys. Eight Norfolk hitters notched an RBI in this game. DJ Stewart roped a three-run double, Ryan Mountcastle was 2-for-4 with a two-bagger, and Austin Hays went 1-for-4.

The news wasn’t great on the mound, where starter David Hess gave up four runs in four innings, while three relievers were each scored upon. Josh Lucas was credited with a save despite giving up three hits and two runs.

Bowie Baysox 7, Altoona Curve (Pirates) 6 — 10 innings

It was a walkoff win for the Baysox, the hottest team in minor league baseball, who improved to 23-6 in the second half and extended their Western division lead to 2.5 games. Two acquisitions from last year’s Manny Machado trade, Yusniel Diaz and Rylan Bannon, homered in this contest. Diaz’s was a game-tying shot in the eighth, his 10th. He also added a double, and is hitting .255 with an .822 OPS.

Ryan McKenna sent the fans home happy with his game-ending RBI single in the bottom of the 10th, his first hit of the night in five at-bats. Among other notable prospects, leadoff man Mason McCoy was 0-for-4 with an RBI. Second baseman Jesmuel Valentin was a doubles machine, ripping a trio of two-baggers.

Australian lefty Alex Wells continues to befuddle the Eastern League, tossing another six shutout innings in this one. The control artist had no walks and four strikeouts, scattering five hits. Wells is 8-1 with a 1.83 ERA in 16 starts, with 70 strikeouts to 18 walks. This should have been his ninth win, considering he departed with a 5-0 lead, but Luis Gonzalez — who has an 8.10 ERA since being demoted from Norfolk to Bowie — gave up four runs in relief and Cristian Alvarado one. But Dillon Tate restored order out of the bullpen, working 2.2 hitless innings to set up the walkoff victory.

Frederick Keys 3, Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians) 1

Brett Cumberland’s two-run homer in the eighth snapped a one-all tie and launched the Keys to victory. Before that, they Keys had been dominated for seven innings by the Hillcats’ Juan Hillman (seven innings, one unearned run, 10 strikeouts), but kept the game tied thanks to a group effort on the mound. Starter Ofelky Peralta was taken out after one inning and one run, but relievers Scott Burke (four innings), Zach Matson (three innings), and Tim Naughton (one inning) combined to blank Lynchburg the rest of the way.

West Virginia Power (Mariners) 12, Delmarva Shorebirds 10

Oh, dear. Top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez got absolutely torched in this outing, giving up six runs, four hits, and two walks while recording just one out. I don’t know what happened, but...yikes. His ERA rose nearly 80 points, from 2.15 to 2.94. On the heels of his previous start, where Rodriguez issued six walks in five innings, the 19-year-old right-hander is in a bit of a funk. I’m not particularly worried, though. Major props to reliever Marlon Constante, freshly up from Aberdeen, who retired all 12 batters he faced in his Delmarva debut.

The Shorebirds, after falling into an 11-3 hole after three innings, nearly pulled off a spectacular comeback thanks to a prolific offensive showing. They pounded out 10 runs on 15 hits, with all but one batter collecting a hit, and were led by JC Encarnacion’s 4-for-4 performance. The Kevin Gausman trade piece raised his average to .241 and OPS to .657. Right fielder Robert Neustrom homered and was one of five Shorebirds with multi-hit games, but the rally ultimately fell short.

Aberdeen Ironbirds 11, Staten Island Yankees 0

Who says Adley Rutschman should be the only 2019 draftee to get all the attention today? Seventh rounder Johnny Rizer had the game of his life, hitting for the cycle — and adding another hit on top of it — for an incredible 5-for-5, three-run, three-RBI evening. Rizer was the third Ironbird to hit for the cycle in the franchise’s history.

Other 2019 draftees Zach Watson, Andrew Daschbach, and Joseph Ortiz combined to reach base eight times and drive in five runs. Also having a nice day was Dalton Hoiles, son of Chris, who was 3-for-5 with his first homer. On the mound, starter Ryan Conroy and relievers Malachi Emond and Yelin Rodriguez combined for a five-hit shutout, striking out seven batters and walking none.

Complete box scores from Saturday’s games can be found here.

Sunday’s scheduled games:

  • Norfolk vs. Lehigh Valley, 4:05 PM. Starter: Dan Straily (2-0, 3.00)
  • Bowie vs. Altoona, 1:35 PM. Starter: Mike Baumann (2-1, 0.33)
  • Frederick at Lynchburg, 3:00 PM. Starter: Brenan Hanifee (6-9, 4.40)
  • Delmarva at West Virginia, 2:05 PM. Starter: Ryan Wilson (5-3, 2.80)
  • Aberdeen at Staten Island, 1:00 PM. Starter: TBD