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KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Former Beavers get closer to realizing dreams of playing in majors

COURTESY PHOTO: BALTIMORE ORIOLES/TODD OLSZEWSKI - Former Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2019, earned a pair of promotions in his short season in Baltimores farm system.Over the past two years, Oregon State baseball has had four first-round draft picks — second baseman Nick Madrigal, right fielder Trevor Larnach and shortstop Cadyn Grenier in 2018, and catcher Adley Rutschman last June.

Here's a look at the quintessential quartet of Beaver lore at this point in their professional careers ...

ADLEY RUTSCHMAN, Baltimore. First pick in the 2019 draft. Rated as the Orioles' No. 1 prospect.

ETA to the major leagues according to MLB.com: 2021.

After earning consensus National Player of the Year honors in his junior year with the Beavers, Rutschman earned a pair of promotions in his short season in Baltimore's farm system. He hit a collective .254 with a .351 on-base percentage, four home runs and 26 RBIs in 37 games with three teams.

Rutschman played five games for the Orioles' rookie league team in the Gulf Coast League, with two hits in 14 at-bats. He then played 20 games with Aberdeen (Maryland) in short-season Class A, hitting .325 in 77 at-bats. After a second call-up, Rutschman played 12 games with Delmarva (Maryland) in advanced Class A, hitting .154 in 39 at-bats for a team that set a franchise record with 90 regular-season victories.

The Sherwood High grad was named the Orioles' Minor League Player of the Month for August. After his promotion to Aberdeen on July 27, Rutschman had a 10-game hitting streak in which he hit .462 with a .521 on-base percentage. In one game, he went 5 for 5 with a triple, homer and four RBIs. He also caught the first no-hitter in IronBirds history.

"The whole thing was a really good experience, kind of what I expected," said Rutschman, 21, who is making his offseason home in Vancouver, Washington. "I had a lot of info from guys who went through it last year, like Nick and Trevor. I learned one thing, though — you never get used to those eight-hour bus rides."

It's remarkable Rutschman played as well as he did. His pro debut was delayed six weeks by a case of mononucleosis contracted the week before Oregon State played in the NCAA regionals at Corvallis.

"They thought it was strep throat," Rutschman said. "I played that weekend but didn't feel right."

Rutschman was later diagnosed with mono, which prevented him from beginning his pro career until late July. After a quick baptism in the GSL, Rutschman had a hot bat with Aberdeen and was honored as the organization's top minor league player in his first full month of play.

"That was awesome, a huge compliment," he said.

Rutschman was allowed to call pitches at all three stops and caught the first no-hitter in Aberdeen history, working with three pitchers on the gem.

"That was definitely a highlight," Rutschman said. "I'd never been a part of a no-hitter. It's fun to call a game. There's a learning curve. You don't arrive at a point where you've got it figured out, but they did a great job of teaching me the system, how they want to pitch guys and what they wanted me to look for in hitters. We'd go over the scouting report before each game, so I always felt prepared."

Rutschman struggled at the plate with Delmarva, but didn't feel it was a matter of fatigue.

"I got off to a slow start, and I wasn't there long," he said. "I was not feeling as strong as I wanted to coming off the mono, but I didn't feel like I was unbelievably tired."

The 6-2, 215-pound Rutschman calls his first run in the Baltimore chain "a phenomenal experience wherever I went. We had a lot of success at all three levels. That always helps make it fun."

The former OSU standout plans to spend some time hitting and working out with Larnach and former OSU outfielder Steven Kwan, among others, in Corvallis this winter. He doesn't know where he'll begin next season, but he knows his long-range plan. The Orioles finished 54-108 this season, the second-worst record in the major leagues. They need all the help they can get, and Rutschman wants to be of service.

"I want to start as high (a level) as I can, and I want to move up as quickly as possible," he said. "That's the goal."

Some day soon, Rutschman hopes he'll be in the American League along with former teammates Madrigal, Larnach and Grenier.

"Isn't that crazy, all of us being in the same league?" he said. "I'm hoping we'll get to play against each other moving forward."

NICK MADRIGAL, Chicago White Sox. Third pick in the 2018 draft. Rated as the White Sox's No. 4 prospect. ETA to major leagues: 2020.

In his second full pro season after leaving Oregon State following the 2018 College World Series, Madrigal played in 120 games at three levels, hitting a combined .311 with 76 runs scored, 35 stolen bases and a .377 on-base percentage.

The 5-7, 165-pound second baseman started with Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in advanced Class A, then went to Birmingham, Alabama, in Double-A, then to Charlotte in the Triple-A International League, where he hit .331 in 29 games. His first Triple-A home run was an inside-the-park shot Aug. 16. He also had a 5-for-5 game with the Knights.

"I was happy with everything," said Madrigal, 22. "Through the course of a long season, you're going to have your ups and downs. There were times when I was hitting the ball right at guys and times when I wasn't doing the best at the plate, but overall, it went good. I didn't miss any games due to injury. I was thankful to be able to stay healthy."

Many thought Madrigal had earned a September call-up by the White Sox, but it didn't come, at least in part because the club didn't want to start Madrigal's clock toward free agency. Nobody with the organization discussed the situation with him.

"(A call-up) would have been great," Madrigal said. "I was looking forward to it. But (White Sox executives) make all the decisions. They have a plan. I enjoyed the season and everything that came along with it, so I wasn't too frustrated. It just wasn't meant to be."

Madrigal was invited to big-league spring training camp and played in 10 exhibition games, all at second base. He hit .389 with a .450 on-base percentage in 18 at-bats and committed only one error.

"It was awesome," he said. "I met a lot of great players, a lot of older guys. I enjoyed playing against major leaguers, too. They gave me a lot of opportunities. I got some hits, did some things. I felt comfortable."

Once the season began, Madrigal got some good guidance. At Birmingham, he played for Omar Vizquel, one of the greatest fielding shortstops in history and a 2014 inductee into Cooperstown. In Charlotte, his manager was Mark Grudzielanek, who played 15 major-league seasons as a middle infielder, hitting .289 in 1,802 games.

"I got lucky," Madrigal said. "I had a couple of guys who have experienced just about everything to show me the way. I enjoyed getting close with Omar. I bounced some questions off of him about the game, and off the field as well. He was a great person to have in the clubhouse and the dugout."

The White Sox finished third in the American League Central with a 72-89 record, an improvement over a 62-100 mark the previous season.

"You can see how much they want to win," Madrigal said. "The coaches and staff members have treated me well. I've enjoyed my time with this organization. I'm excited to be a part of it."

The Elk Grove, California, native is spending the offseason training in Glendale, Arizona. He seems likely to begin the 2020 season with the Knights, but it seems only a matter of time until he is a member of the major-league club.

"I'd like to help the White Sox win as many games as we can, to just be a part of that," Madrigal said. "My ultimate goal is to be up there in the big leagues."

Madrigal said he is looking forward to facing his former OSU teammates in the American League.

"I talk to Trevor about once a week, and I keep in touch with Cadyn and Adley," he said. "We still have our group messages like when we were in college. Hopefully, in the next couple of years, we'll all be up there together. That will be a lot of fun."

TREVOR LARNACH, Minnesota. 20th pick in the 2018 draft. Rated as the Twins' No. 5 prospect. ETA: 2021.

The left-handed hitting right fielder had a banner first full pro season after leaving OSU following the College World Series, hitting a collective .309 with 13 homers, 66 RBIs and a .384 on-base percentage in 127 games.

Larnach, 22, started the season with Fort Myers in the advanced Class A Florida State League, leading the team in hitting (.316), doubles (26) and on-base percentage (.382) in 84 games. After being promoted to Pensacola, Florida, in Double-A, Larnach hit .295 with a .387 on-base percentage and seven homers in 43 games. He was named Player of the Year in the Florida State League, where he led the league in batting, slugging percentage (.459) and on-base-plus-slugging (.842).

"It was a good year," Larnach said. "The most important thing was staying healthy, and I did that. It told me what they thought about me when had me start my first full year at high-A. I stayed process-oriented, learned a lot, went through a lot, and came out feeling pretty good about myself."

Claiming the FSL's Player of the Year Award "was cool," Larnach said. "I just tried to rack up the experience, get better, help the team out. Those were my goals. I want to make it to the big leagues to help the Twins. You have to take it one step at a time, That was a great first step."

Larnach wasn't invited to Minnesota's big-league spring training camp, but the Twins brought him up to play a couple of games. And he made the most of it, hitting a home run off of Washington fast-baller Tanner Rainey in his first at-bat.

"He had some good stuff," Larnach said. "He was throwing the fastball 98, 99 (mph), with a slider and changeup. I battled to a 3-2 count, then got a pitch I like to hit and knocked it out over left-center.

"It was a surreal feeling. One of the coolest things was I got to high-five Nelson Cruz on the way to the dugout. You keep that in the memory box and cherish it. And the fan who caught (the ball) came up to me after the game and gave it to me for a souvenir."

Spending some time in big-league camp "was a very valuable experience," Larnach said.

"You're playing with and against guys who you see play on TV," he said. "It's a dream to play at the highest level, something you work for every day. It was super important to get familiar with that and experience how they go about their business, the style of play and what you need to do in the (batter's) box."

Larnach said he is "fortunate to be a part" of the Twins' organization. When he was with Fort Myers, he lived at the academy at their spring training complex.

"They've done an amazing job with it," he said. "It's a mixture of a dorm and a hotel. You pay a living fee of $10 a day and get everything you need. They feed you three meals a day. You stay in a room that is very well taken care of. They have water, snacks, TVs. It's such a beautiful complex. It's pretty incredible. And the organization is doing a good job of developing guys to their style of play."

The Pleasant Hill, California, native will spend the off-season in Corvallis with girlfriend Jessica Garcia, a former outfielder for the Oregon State softball team. "I'll work in the gym and the (batting) cage and get my body and mind and mechanics ready for next season."

When the 6-4 Larnach ended his college career, he said his weight was 213. He played at about 220 pounds this season. "I'll be between 225 and 230 next season," he said. "I'm stronger than I've ever been. I feel great."

Larnach doesn't know where he'll start next season, "but my goal is to make it to the the big leagues and to stay there," he said.

In reference to Rutschman, Madrigal and Grenier, Larnach said this: "One day, all of us will be up there together. We talk all the time. We share a bond that is pretty rare when it comes to college baseball, through our experience with Beaver baseball and our run in 2018. We all still talk about it. We love that time. It was an awesome time of our lives."

CADYN GRENIER, Baltimore. No. 37 pick in the 2018 draft. Rated as the Orioles' No. 21 prospect. ETA: 2021

Grenier hit .244 with eight homers, 60 runs scored and 43 RBIs in 106 games in his first full pro season. The slick-fielding shortstop started with Delmarva, Maryland, in Single-A, hitting .253 in 82 games. After being promoted to Frederick, Maryland, in advanced A, Grenier hit .208 in 24 games.

"It was a great year," he said. "It was a lot of fun. It's a lot of work in the low minor leagues, so it was a long summer. But i got promoted, which was the goal, so it was a successful season for me."

With Delmarva, Grenier typically hit third or fourth in the order. After moving up to Frederick, he was normally in the sixth spot.

"I made some good strides at the plate, especially the first part of the season," he said. "I didn't hit as well as I'd like to (at Frederick), but toward the end, I was getting better. I was pretty happy about it."

Grenier said he fielded "great. I had a very good defensive year."

Grenier and Rutschman are in the same organization, and just missed each other at Delmarva.

"Adley had just gotten to Aberdeen when I got promoted," Grenier said. "At some point next year, though, we'll probably be playing together, which will be cool."

Grenier said he is "enjoying my time" with the Orioles.

"I've had some good coaches," he said. "My manager at Delmarva, Kyle Moore, is awesome. We had a great staff there. (The Orioles) are making so many changes in the front office, though, that what I've known the last year and a half will be gone next year."

The 5-11, 190-pound Grenier has returned to his native Las Vegas to spend the offseason.

"I'm just hanging out right now, giving my body a chance to recover," he said. "Pretty soon I'll be getting back in the gym to get my body back in good shape. I don't know when I'll start hitting, but it will be earlier than last offseason."

Grenier will likely start next season at Frederick.

"I'll have the same goals I had for this year," he said. "I want to continue getting better and to get promoted again, hopefully twice. That's really the goal for next year."

And if he made it to the major leagues in 2021, as MLB.com predicts?

"That's perfect," he said. "That would mean everything is going right. That would be fine with me."

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@kerryeggers


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