Eye­ing the fu­ture, Ori­oles in­tro­duce No. 1 pick Rutschman

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By DAVID GINS­BURG AP Sports Writer

BAL­TI­MORE (AP) >> The Bal­ti­more Ori­oles in­ter­rupted their mis­er­able 2019 sea­son to in­tro­duce a sliver of hope for the fu­ture: Ad­ley Rutschman, the top over­all pick in the Ma­jor League Base­ball draft.

Rutschman sat along­side gen­eral man­ager Mike Elias dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Tues­day at Cam­den Yards be­fore the Ori­oles were to face the San Diego Padres, whose most no­table player, Manny Machado, was nabbed by Bal­ti­more with the third se­lec­tion in the 2010 draft.

Machado be­came a star, but the Ori­oles traded him away last year in the midst of a 115-loss sea­son be­cause they couldn’t af­ford to keep him be­yond 2018.

Now in the process of a ma­jor re­build, Elias is count­ing on Rutschman — a switch­hit­ting catcher from Ore­gon State — to be­come a key fig­ure in the team’s rise to re­spectabil­ity.

Af­ter mulling over sev­eral op­tions, Elias set­tled on Rutschman and be­stowed upon him an $8.1 mil­lion sign­ing bonus, the largest ever pro­vided to an MLB draft pick.

Elias termed the se­lec­tion of Rutschman as “prob­a­bly the big­gest de­ci­sion this or­ga­ni­za­tion is go­ing to make this year.”

Whether the 21-year-old rises to his po­ten­tial will be de­ter­mined soon enough, but at this point there is no un­der­stat­ing his im­por­tance to a fran­chise that fin­ished with the worst record in the ma­jors last year and ap­pears well on its way to du­pli­cat­ing that lam­en­ta­ble feat this sea­son.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled, hav­ing him be a part of the process we’re go­ing through to take this or­ga­ni­za­tion back to where it be­longs,” Elias said. “We are in phase right now where we are look­ing for build­ing blocks, and I think by sign­ing Ad­ley Rutschman, we found a very big piece.”

Rutschman in­tended to take bat­ting prac­tice with the team and was to be in­tro­duced to the home crowd on Tues­day night. Af­ter that, the plan is for him to take a break to ac­cept some of the many awards he gar­nered this sea­son, then play in the Gulf Coast League be­fore join­ing short sea­son Class A Aberdeen.

“I al­ways be­lieve, when in doubt, start play­ers at the lower-level league be­cause it’s very easy to trans­fer them if they’re per­form­ing well,” Elias said. “We took a lot of col­lege play­ers and al­most all of them will be start­ing there.”

Rutschman has al­ready played plenty of base­ball this sea­son, but he can’t wait to get started with the next phase of his ca­reer.

“It’s al­ways been a goal of mine to be in this po­si­tion,” Rutschman said. “For me, it’s al­ways been about the process of get­ting there. So, now it’s about set­ting new goals. Now that I’m here, I am just ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity and I’m truly hum­bled to be a part of the build­ing process that is go­ing on right now.”

CHRIS PI­ETSCH - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FILE - In this April 26, 2019, file photo, Ore­gon State’s Ad­ley Rutschman gets set to bat against Wash­ing­ton State dur­ing an NCAA col­lege base­ball game in Cor­val­lis, Ore. The Ori­oles se­lected Rutschman as the No. 1 over­all pick in the Ma­jor League Base­ball draft. The Ori­oles hope Rutschman will ac­cel­er­ate their re­build to­ward re­spectabil­ity.

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