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Placing odds on the big-league debut of top Orioles prospect Adley Rutschman

It’s all anyone wants to talk about in and around Charm City. I’ve been asked at the grocery store, at the polling place, and multiple times inside Camden Yards.

I spent a few enjoyable minutes with Ken and Jason on 105.7 The Fan recently telling them to hit the brakes a little.

Uber-prospect Adley Rutschman is going to make his major-league debut for the Orioles within the next two weeks. Unless he re-aggravates his right triceps injury or hurts something else, I’m positive by May 31 against Seattle he is an Oriole.

Will it be this weekend?

The answer is maybe. I’ll even say likely, but there are a few factors at work here. As I wrote last week, the Orioles want Rutschman, who missed all of spring training with the injury to his throwing arm, to catch multiple games behind the plate consecutively. Say, maybe four of five or five of seven. He’s doing that now at Triple-A Norfolk.

Wednesday marked the second time he has caught on consecutive days, and he’s now caught five times in Norfolk’s last six games over a seven-day period.

It also makes sense the Orioles would like Rutschman to be in a decent offensive groove when he gets promoted so he can carry that to the majors. In his first 10 games with the Tides, he hit just .200. But on Wednesday he moved his average up to .231 and his OPS to .837 with a two-hit night that included his second homer in his last two games.

So, he’s getting closer to checking those two boxes — if he hasn’t already done it.

The difficulty for the Orioles is making sure Rutschman has completed those final steps while balancing a unique marketing opportunity. After being careful with him all this time, Orioles GM Mike Elias isn’t going to push Rutschman to the majors simply for an attendance boost this weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays at home. The organization has been adamant that they’ll promote players only when they think they’re ready to perform at the top level.

But if O’s management is waiting for Rutschman’s bat to get hotter or for him to catch three or more days in a row, that could mean he’d be optimally ready for next week’s series in either New York or Boston. Although it’s true that Orioles fans are gonna come out for Rutschman’s home debut no matter when it is, it would mean a whole lot more to fans — and, subsequently, at the gate — if his big-league debut occurs at Camden Yards.

Traditionally, that’s how the club has done it with most of its highly anticipated position players in recent years, such as Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays.

So, a betting man likely says Rutschman is an Oriole on Friday or at least this weekend. But a good betting man might want to hedge a little for the road, too.

Here’s my updated look at each possibility, with fake betting odds for each (what you’d get if you placed $100 down on one of the possibilities). It’s in order of most likely to least likely.


Friday, May 20 versus the Rays at Camden Yards (Connolly’s odds, +120)

Why: This makes the most sense from a marketing standpoint. A Friday night game against a division rival that’s already a promotional night (a Camden Yards 30th anniversary tumbler giveaway). The Tides are in Charlotte all week, so it’s a short flight. They also could play Rutschman on Friday and Saturday behind the plate and then give him a day off or at DH on Sunday afternoon. His two homers in the last two days makes this a more likely scenario. Fun fact: This was the day I initially pinpointed in early April as Rutschman’s arrival if all went well, so I can’t waver now. Better to be lucky than good.

Why not: The only reason is if the Orioles want to see a little more offensively and have him get a few more consecutive games behind the plate. A secondary reason would be that the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff is not exactly one you want to face in a debut. But it’s the big leagues. Just about every pitching staff is nasty. And the other upcoming alternatives are the Yankees, Red Sox and Mariners. Not traditionally easy marks.

May 23-30, in New York or Boston (Connolly’s odds, +220)

Why: I made this one more open-ended, because, to Orioles fans, it doesn’t really matter which day on the road it is as much as whether it happens on the road. Many fans would take that as a slap. But Elias and company have been very consistent with their methodology on development; it’s when the move makes the most sense for the player and not for the team (or the fans). So, if it takes into next week before the boxes are checked to the Orioles’ satisfaction, it’s possible Rutschman gets the call-up away from Camden Yards. One date that could fit is May 27. Orioles have an off day on May 26 and then play five games in four days in Boston. Also, there would be less pressure for Rutschman on the road than at home. But he’s being watched every at-bat, every day, anyway.

Why not: It’s pretty simple, right? The maximum bang for the buck is debuting Rutschman at home. Some of the buzz — and that includes ticket sales and attention — would wane if Rutschman takes that first at-bat without being in front of the adoring fans in orange and black. It’s simply not good business to have him debut on the road. And the organization knows that some wary fans may take a road debut personally.

Sunday, May 22 (+580)

Why: For logistical purposes, if they want to give Rutschman a little more time to catch and hit in Triple A but they don’t want him to debut on the road, Sunday is a solid compromise. He joins the team this Saturday, has a day to breathe, and then plays Sunday. Afterward, he accompanies the team on its road trip. And when he gets back to Baltimore, there will still be some buzz because he’s only had one game at home.

Why not: Because it means just a one-time chance to see Rutschman before he hits the road. That will drive tickets, but it would be more profitable if you have a chance to spread it over a weekend. Also, the weather forecast looks good for Friday and Saturday, but not Sunday.

Tuesday, May 31 (+800)

Why: It’s the Orioles’ first game back from the New York-Boston road trip. It’s the last day of May, so the expectation he debuts this month would still fit. And it would allow the organization to both pump his arrival and, perhaps, put a positive spin on the team if the games in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park don’t go smoothly. The Mariners won’t be much of a draw on a Tuesday night (no giveaways scheduled), so Rutschman’s debut would improve the gate dramatically.

Why not: If you believe the Orioles are doing all of this for Rutschman’s betterment, then it seems disingenuous to stretch out his time in Norfolk just for marketing/gate purposes. Given the ability and results we’ve seen from Rutschman in the past, you’d think he wouldn’t need another full week to trend upward at Triple A. This is a Plan D thing for me.

Saturday, May 21 (+1600)

Why: If they want him to debut at home but logistics don’t work out for Friday night. Or they want him to get one more game with Norfolk.

Why not: I guarantee Elias and his front office don’t care much about this, but, logistically, Saturday is the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes at nearby Pimlico Race Course. The Orioles shouldn’t want Rutschman’s debut to compete with that event if they can help it.

June (+6000)

Why: If the conspiracy theorists are right, and the Orioles are only concerned about money, they would need to keep him out of the majors until some point in June (not determined yet) to make sure Rutschman doesn’t become a Super 2 player and get an extra year of arbitration.

Why not: From everyone I’ve talked to, it doesn’t seem like Super 2 is an issue at all. Remember, Rutschman likely would have been the Opening Day starter if he hadn’t gotten hurt. And he has already passed the deadline for an extra year of service time. The Orioles aren’t going to keep him down when he is this close just to push this situation into June. The only way this scenario happens is if he is re-injured.

(Photo of Rutschman in 2020: Joe Robbins / Getty Images)

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