BOSTON — Much of the discussion surrounding the roster the Orioles put together for the 2023 season focused on who wasn’t on it. They didn’t sign a marquee free agent. They didn’t swing a big trade. Top-ranked prospects Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall and Jordan Westburg will open the season in the minors.
But any qualm one might take with Baltimore’s opening day roster could be negated by this: It includes Adley Rutschman.
The Orioles’ star catcher shined in his first opening day game Thursday, homering in his first at-bat and reaching base five more times to lead Baltimore to a 10-9 victory against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Rutschman became the first player since 1937 to go 5-for-5 or better with a home run on opening day. He is the first catcher with five hits on opening day since at least 1900, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
He was positioned to break camp with the Orioles in 2022, but a right tricep strain delayed his debut until May. Despite his late arrival, he earned Most Valuable Oriole honors and finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting, fueling Baltimore’s turnaround. The Orioles played at an 89-win pace with Rutschman on the roster, going 16-24 before his arrival.
Thursday continued to show his influence. On his first swing of the year, Rutschman launched a sinker from Corey Kluber out to right field at 104.5 mph, sending it a projected 402 feet. It made the 25-year-old the youngest Oriole to homer in his first at-bat of an opening day game since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1984.
He singled in the third but was thrown out at second, an awkward slide causing him to kick Boston second baseman Christian Arroyo in the head. He was again thrown out on an RBI hit in the seventh, with a walk and two-run single between.
The only other catchers to reach base five or more times while homering in a season opener were Yogi Berra in 1956, Todd Handley in 1995 and Jason Varitek in 2002. Carlton Fisk reached four times and homered in his first opening day game; both Varitek and Fisk’s feats came for the Red Sox.
The only plate appearance in which Rutschman didn’t record a hit came in the Orioles’ four-run fourth, when he drew a walk. Top overall prospect Gunnar Henderson, serving as Baltimore’s designated hitter, led off the frame with his second walk, and third baseman Ramón Urías followed with a home run over the Green Monster. One batter later, newcomer Adam Frazier doubled, and Jorge Mateo singled before his first of two steals. A series of walks, Rutschman’s among them, gave Baltimore enough separation even as Boston rallied.
Through five innings, veteran starter Kyle Gibson had allowed two runs, both following blunders in the Orioles’ outfield. Another came in the sixth and chased Gibson from the game, with the two runners he left on base for Keegan Akin both scoring. Another outfield misplay came in the eighth, with three runs scoring off Bryan Baker.
Félix Bautista allowed two runs and the potential winning run to come to the plate in the ninth but escaped, striking out Adam Duvall with a runner on second.
Orioles at Red Sox
Saturday, 4:10 p.m.