Image credit: (Tom DiPace)
BRADENTON, Fla. — The last time Adley Rutschman saw live pitching, he was playing in the regional round of the NCAA Tournament. That was June 1. Since then, quite a bit has happened. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, signed for record-high bonus of $8.1 million and spent time recovering from a bout of mono that delayed the start of his professional career.
On Saturday in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, he put all that in the past. Slotted into the fifth spot in the lineup as the DH, Rutschman made loud contact in his first three at-bats, including a long home run to right field for his first professional hit.
“It felt really good,” Rutschman said after taking pictures with fans and signing autographs. “Just to get my feet wet again and see some live pitching and get a feel of what the games are like and the atmosphere and whatnot. It was a good experience and it was good to get that first one out of the way.”
He made hard contact in his first two at-bats, resulting in a lineout to shortstop and a fly ball just shy of the wall in right field that looked like it had a good chance to go out. In his third at-bat, he left no doubt.
On a pitch from Pirates righthander Lizardy Dicent, Rutschman uncorked a mighty hack from the left side for a no-doubt home run. After just missing a homer in the at-bat prior, the No. 5 prospect in baseball knew he’d gotten all of it this time.
“It was my first swings with wood, live, so it was hard to tell,” Rutschman said, referring to the near-miss in his second at-bat. “But I knew I got the second one, so that’s all that matters.”