IronBirds' Rutschman soars to new heights

No. 6 overall prospect blasts long ball, goes 5-for-5 for first time

Adley Rutschman batting .325/.413/.481 with an .894 OPS through his first 20 New York-Penn League games. (Kevin Pataky/

By Rob Terranova / | August 20, 2019 12:01 AM

When Adley Rutschman was going through a brief funk early with the Class A Short Season IronBirds, he got an encouraging message from the club's hitting coach. Thomas Eller told the 21-year-old his swing was flawless, but his timing was a tick off.

"Just be on time. That's it," Eller said.

Rutschman was on time Monday, and as the coach predicted, that was it.

Baltimore's top prospect turned in the first five-hit effort of his young career -- going 5-for-5 with his first New York-Penn League homer, a triple and a career-best four RBIs -- as Aberdeen rallied past Vermont, 6-2, at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium.

Video: IronBirds' Rutschman's first NYPL homer

"We actually looked at some video of him in BP earlier today and his swing just looked perfect," Eller said. "Everything through the front side and the back side, he caught the ball where he needed to. He puts the work in every day. He know what he's doing and he does a good job at it. It was just the timing."

In the opening frame, Rutschman lined a 3-1 offering from Michael Murray up the middle for a base hit. He was stranded at first base to end the inning.

In the third,'s No. 6 overall prospect worked the count full against the right-hander before lifting a fly ball to left field that dunked in for a one-out single. He was erased from the basepaths two pitches later when Toby Welk grounded into a 4-3 double play.

Gameday box score

Rutschman led off the sixth and connected on a 2-0 fastball over the middle of the plate by righty Jack Cushing, depositing it over the wall in right. The blast -- his first with the IronBirds and second of the year -- opened the scoring for Aberdeen, cutting its deficit to 2-1.

"Just his ability to hit, he stays on everything," Eller said. "He doesn't try to cheat to the fastball, he's hitting changeups away and using the whole field when he needs to. He's shown that he can hit for average and power. And he's not really getting great pitches to hit, but tonight he got a fastball right there and drove it about 420 feet. It was a bomb. Everyone knew it was gone. And you just love to see a guy hit his first home run at a new level."

The top overall selection in June's Draft punched a single to left in the seventh off Cushing. The eighth batter to hit in the next inning, Rutschman had the bases loaded as he stepped in against righty Jeferson Mejia, who had just entered in relief of Clark Cota. The Oregon State product took a strike before hitting a screamer down the right-field line on the next pitch. The knock cleared the bases, but Rutschman was nabbed trying to stretch the triple into an inside-the-park homer. It was his first triple as a pro.

Video: IronBirds' Rutschman's bases-loaded triple

"There was a bad throw from right that went up the line, and when we saw it missed the cutoff man, we tried to be aggressive and send him right away," Eller said. "But they recovered quickly and got the ball home in time."

Rutschman raised his average in the New York-Penn League 47 points to .325 and his OPS to .894 with the performance. He has gone 18-for-39 (.461) with seven extra-base hits, five walks, 14 RBIs and eight runs scored during his 10-game hitting streak. The Oregon native is sporting a .413 on-base percentage and is slugging .481 over his first 20 games with the IronBirds since being promoted from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League on July 27.

2019 MiLB include

"He is locked in every single day," Eller said. "He's got an older guy's approach, as far as what he's looking to do and what he's trying to do. And he really doesn't get a lot of pitches to hit, it's just a matter of him having that great strike-zone awareness to get his pitch and drive it.

"The swing was always there, it was just a matter of getting the timing ... and the next thing you know, he's on time."

Clay Fisher tied the score with an RBI knock in the eighth and Andrew Fregia gave Aberdeen its first lead when he scampered home on a wild pitch later in the frame.

Rob Terranova is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter, @RobTnova24. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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