Michael Rucker Will Get A Big League Look
Michael Rucker will report to big league camp as the second of two Orioles Rule 5 picks, but with the same goal of making his major league debut as their first—whether in the rotation or bullpen.
After selecting righthander Brandon Bailey from the Astros' system No. 2 overall, the Orioles picked Rucker out of the Cubs' organization. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound righthander made 34 relief appearances last summer at Double-A Tennessee at 25 years old and posted a 4.28 ERA, struck out 89 batters and pitched 75.2 innings.
The conversion to reliever came after Rucker made 26 starts with Tennessee in 2018. He went 9-6, 3.73 and boasted a 1.12 WHIP in 132.2 innings. Following the conversion last season, the 11th-rounder in 2016 out of Brigham Young would occasionally pitch multi-inning outings but also worked fewer than two innings in nine games.
"That kind of transition is something that I’ve even done throughout college," Rucker said. "My freshman and sophomore year, I pitched in the bullpen and pitched well enough that they extended me out and to where eventually my junior year at BYU, they had me start."
Considering the Orioles have holes in both the rotation and bullpen, Rucker will have ample opportunities to compete for a role in spring training.
Rucker has recorded a career 3.26 ERA in four seasons. He has struck out 343 batters in 331 innings while walking just 2.3 batters per nine innings.
"I do have a four-pitch mix, but my two best pitches are my four-seam fastball and my curveball,” Rucker said. "My curveball is a little bit more of a sweeping action. The slider is a little bit harder, but works really well when back-footing to a lefty or getting the righty to chase.
"And then my changeup has definitely been a work in progress, but it’s been something that when it’s been on, it’s been dynamite.
Rucker spent the offseason getting all his pitches big league ready.
"I think they’re well on their way," he said. I'm looking forward to 2020 for sure.”
— Catcher Adley Rutschman, the first overall selection in the 2019 draft, received an invitation to big league camp. Rutschman will begin the season at one of the organization's Class A affiliates, with his major league debut likely in 2021.
— The Orioles signed knuckleballer Mickey Jannis to a minor league contract, but it didn’t include an invitation to spring training. The righthander spent the past five seasons in the Mets' organization and posted a 7-5, 3.10 mark and 1.29 WHIP last summer in 20 games (18 starts) at Double-A Binghamton.