Goss: John Ruettiger flying in Baltimore Orioles organization
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org September 22, 2013 4:44PM
John Ruettiger | Supplied photo
Updated: October 24, 2013 6:18AM
John Ruettiger’s focus is on getting better every day, in all phases of the game.
A check of the 2013 A-Advanced Carolina League statistics shows the 2007 Joliet Catholic graduate, who played for the Baltimore Orioles’ affiliate at Frederick, with 43 stolen bases, ranking third in the league, in 50 attempts.
Including brief stints at the beginning and end of the season at Double-A Bowie, Ruettiger was 44-for-51 in steals and hit .250, down from .280 in 2012, his first full pro season.
The Orioles’ eighth-round draft pick out of Arizona State in the 2011 draft pays little attention to numbers, however. So after Ruettiger stole 28 bases in 37 attempts in his first full season, how many he’d steal in 2013 wasn’t an issue. Improving as a base-stealer was.
“I probably will be a top-of-the-order hitter and speed is a big part of my game,” he said. “I tried to focus on getting better stealing bags, and it turned out well.
“Guys in the organization, roving instructors, worked with me and talked about knowing what to look for. It’s little things, like how quick the pitcher is to the plate or the catcher is to second. I try to run on counts when off-speed pitches are more likely.”
Ruettiger, who turned 24 Saturday, responded with “absolutely” when asked if he feels he is a better base-stealer than he was a year ago. “Like the whole game, though, every day is part of a process,” he added.
The dip in batting average aside, Ruettiger said, “I thought offensively the season went well. I learned a lot about what I can do against certain pitchers. You learn as you play every day.
“The name of the game is consistency, and I tried to be consistent at the plate. That’s another part of the journey.”
Nor does Ruettiger, who played center and left field this season, neglect defense.
“Defense is another thing I take pride in and try to get better at,” he said. “If you can’t play defense, you’re not going to be in the bigs for long.”
Ruettiger began the season at Double-A Bowie and had 42 at-bats when he was sent to Frederick. He returned to Bowie for a season-ending four-game series.
“A lot of things went on coming out of spring training,” he said. “Some guys made the bigs who weren’t expected to and some didn’t who were. They sent me to high-A to make sure I got at-bats on a daily basis.”
Ruettiger’s offseason is uncertain because the Baltimore organization faces decisions.
“There has been discussion about me playing in a different country this offseason, but that’s undecided,” he said. “I’d love to play somewhere. But it’s about weighing options. I could not play and work on getting stronger and faster. I’ll sit down and figure out a plan when I know for sure what their plans are for me.”
Meanwhile, after two full pro seasons, what is certain is his work ethic and focus on getting better will remain at the highest level.
“I feel my progression has been good,” he said. “Two full seasons and to play on four levels like I have is a good thing. I feel good, and the Orioles have been good to me.”
That has helped him through the challenging formative years.
“Baseball is a mental grind,” Ruettiger said. “You’re good if you fail 70 percent of the time. You learn a lot about yourself playing this game.
“The traveling, being away from home, I’ve had to grow up quick and learn to handle myself in tough situations. It’s been a great experience. I love what I’m doing. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Ruettiger will learn later this offseason whether he will be in major league or minor league camp come spring. No matter. The Orioles know he will approach the game with the same fervor.