After a dismal stretch in which the Baltimore Orioles lost over 100 games in three of four seasons, they finished with a respectable 83-79 record in 2021. One of the bright, young players is catcher Adley Rutschman, who was scheduled for his first MLB debut last season before a right triceps strain halted plans. He more than made up for it this season, despite opening day jitters.
Rutschman opened eyes on Thursday, going 5-for-5 with a home run and four RBI. In doing so, he became the first player in 86 years to go 5-for-5 or better with a home run on Opening Day. You must dig back into baseball history even further, to 1900, to find a catcher with five hits on Opening Day.
The Orioles needed every one of those hits and runs knocked in by Rutschman, holding off the Red Sox in Fenway by a score of 10-9. Rutschman somewhat downplayed the achievement, noting that the hits are awesome but winning the of utmost importance.
All the years of losing without a hint of homegrown talent got old for Baltimore fans. Things are finally heading in the right direction, with Rutschman leading the way. He hit .254 with 35 doubles, 13 home runs, and 42 RBI last season and was arguably the second-best offensive catcher in the league, behind J.T. Realmuto of the Phillies.
There is no doubt that the Orioles got a huge spark from Rutschman last season. They went from two games under .500 after 30 games to an 89-win pace after his arrival. The 89 wins would have been good for the playoffs, which would have been the team’s first since 2016.
It didn’t take long for Rutschman to make an impact, depositing a Corey Kluber sinker into the seats in the right field on his first swing. At 25 years old, Rutschman became the youngest Oriole to blast a home run in his first at-bat on Opening Day since Cal Ripken. 39 years ago. If one were to nitpick, Rutschman was thrown out twice trying to stretch singles into doubles.
Rutschman joined Yogi Berra, Todd Hundley, and Jason Varitek as the only other catchers to reach base five or more times. Adam Jones was the last Orioles player aged 25 or younger to hit a home run on opening day, doing so in 2010.
Joining Rutschman in the rebuilding process with light at the end of the tunnel is rookie Gunnar Henderson, who could make noise for Rookie of the Year. In addition, the Orioles expect shortstop Jackson Holliday and pitcher Grayson Rodriguez to be in the Major Leagues this season or in 2024.
Despite a big start to the season, Rutschman is keeping a level head. While he enjoyed the first game, he knows to take it one day, one game at a time. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde knows the type of talent Rutschman has, calling him “a special player, a good hitter, and he hasn’t played a full year yet. Good things coming.”
Good things coming for Rutschman will translate into good things coming for the Orioles moving forward. The rebuilding process is in full swing.
After discussing Adley Rutschman’s historic opener with the Orioles, let’s switch gears to hockey where the Bruins completed a record regular season.