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BY DAVID DRIVER/FOR THE PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Oregon State product signs for record $8.1 million bonus, then hits homer in batting practice

COURTESY PHOTO: TODD OLSZEWSKI/BALTIMORE ORIOLES - ADLEY RUTSCHMANBALTIMORE — Adley Rutschman spoke to several former Oregon State baseball players about life at the pro level. One of them was Michael Conforto, a veteran outfielder with the New York Mets.

"It was very helpful to get some of their advice," Rutschman said Tuesday as he was introduced to the local media.

Rutschman, the No. 1 pick in the June MLB draft, received an $8.1 million signing bonus, the largest in MLB history. The record was $8 million, earned by Gerrit Cole with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011.

Conforto and other ex-Beavers weren't able to convince Rutschman to go out and blow his big bonus.

"I'm pretty comfortable with my Honda Civic," said Rutschman, 21, with a smile.

The former Sherwood High and OSU star, who has won nearly every major college baseball award this month, made his first appearance at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

That came just hours after the team announced he had been signed and came just before the Orioles hosted the San Diego Padres and third baseman Manny Machado, the top draft pick of Baltimore in 2010.

Rutschman took batting practice with the Orioles on Tuesday and lofted a home run to the famous flag court over the right field wall — not far from the Bar-B-Q stand operated by Boog Powell, the former Baltimore first baseman from the glory days of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"It has been a long journey to get here," Rutschman said. "I am honored and excited to get going. I had the opportunity to meet some of the guys (with the Orioles). It was always a goal of mine to be in this position."

Rutschman was the first No. 1 overall pick by the Orioles since pitcher Ben McDonald of LSU in 1989. The power-hitting catcher was the first backstop taken first overall in the draft since 2001 when Joe Maurer – a possible Hall of Famer – was picked by the Minnesota Twins. It was in 2007 that the Orioles also drafted a catcher in the first round: Matt Wieters out of Georgia Tech.

"This was a big decision for our organization," Orioles general manager Mike Elias said of having the top selection. "We took it very seriously. It's huge. It was a great draft class. I think we will let his play dictate how fast (Adley) moves. When in doubt, start them at a lower level."

Rutschman will head to Sarasota, Florida, the spring training home of the Orioles, and is slated to begin his pro career in the Gulf Coast League, according to Elias. He is then expected to join the Aberdeen (Maryland) IronBirds of the New York-Penn League. Elias said there is a chance the new draft pick could be used at first base and as a designated hitter on days that he is not catching.

The IronBirds play at Ripken Stadium – about 35 miles north of Camden Yards in Baltimore. The principal owner is Cal Ripken, Jr., the former Hall of Fame shortstop for the Orioles.

Elias is in his first year with the Orioles after he was part of the front office of the Houston Astros, and he helped that organization when a World Series title in 2017.

The Orioles, after three playoff appearances earlier this decade, have fallen on hard times.

The team lost a franchise-record 115 games last season and was 22-57 (the worse record in the majors) through Tuesday.

Elias is focusing his efforts on the minor-league system and acquiring as much talent as possible. The international signing period starts in early July.

The Orioles were encouraged by the June draft – with the Oregon State standout as the lynchpin.

Rutschman and his parents and sister arrived in Baltimore on Sunday. He was able to walk around Camden Yards on Monday and get a taste of the Inner Harbor, which was transformed decades ago and attracts tourists throughout the East Coast.

Randy Rutschman, his father, said his son has seen just a few major league games in person, in Seattle. Adley said he grew up admiring Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. "Really controls his (pitching) staff," Adley said of Molina, the Cardinals catcher.

The Orioles scout that followed Rutschman is Brandon Verley, a former minor-leaguer with the Marlins who lives in West Lin. "I first saw him after his junior year of high school," Verley said.

Baltimore prospect Cadyn Grenier was teammates with Rutschman last season at Oregon State. The infielder from Nevada had a hit in nine of his last 10 games and was batting .262 through Monday with the low Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds of the South Atlantic League in Salisbury, Maryland.

It may not be long before Rutschman is playing in Delmarva. The Orioles' high Single-A team is in Frederick, Maryland in the Carolina League; the Double-A team is in Bowie, Maryland in the Eastern League; and the Triple-A team is the Norfolk (Virginia) Tides in the International League.

Rutchman said he doesn't feel pressure as a new pro.

"I feel like there was a lot of pressure going into the draft" as the No. 1 prospect, he said.


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