Four Orioles players will board a plane to Seattle together next weekend for the MLB All-Star Game.
It’s the first time since 2016 that the Orioles have four players going. Their paths that earned them a trip to the Pacific Northwest, though, couldn’t be more different.
This was destiny for Adley Rutschman, the former top prospect in baseball. It’s no surprise to anyone that he’s an All-Star in his first full major league season.
Yennier Cano just needed someone to give him a chance. He didn’t break camp with the team. Now he’s an All-Star and one of the best relievers in the sport.
For Félix Bautista, this is proof that patience and persistence work. He was released from the Marlins as a teenager and spent eight years in the Orioles’ minor league system before making his debut a year ago. He’s the closer of a playoff contender now.
And, for Austin Hays, this was the light at the end of the tunnel, the result of finally being healthy and consistent after seven years of grinding it out.
“All four of these guys are different stories. That’s the coolest thing,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “For them to all four experience their first All-Star Game, the stories that they have, a lot of people put a lot of work in. It’s a credit to them and a pleasure for me to tell them.”
For Rutschman, it was only a matter of how, not if, he’d get into the All-Star Game. Rutschman — currently holding a .268 batting average with 11 home runs — won Phase 1 of fan voting. Jonah Heim earned 52% of the vote in Phase 2, edging Rutschman out of the starting lineup.
Rutschman’s fellow players voted him in, though, and he gets to make the trip home.
“It’s an unbelievable honor,” Rutschman said. “The fact that it’s in the Pacific Northwest at Safeco Field, the first big league park I ever went to, means a lot as well.”
Rutschman, who likely will play the second half of the game, has the chance to catch Cano and Bautista in the Midsummer Classic.
“They are both phenomenal pitchers each in their unique way,” Rutschman said. “To catch them on a daily basis is a true pleasure and so much fun.”
Cano didn’t expect to be in this position. If someone had told him at the beginning of the season he would be heading to the All-Star Game, he wouldn’t have believed them.
He was traded to the Orioles from the Twins last July but played in only three games for Baltimore. Cano didn’t make the Opening Day lineup, and he got the call in April only because Hyde wanted a right-handed arm and Cano was the only one available.
He hasn’t wasted this opportunity.
Cano has given up only five runs since his recall April 14. He pitches exclusively in late innings, a rarity for a reliever with so little major league experience.
“I think this is one of the nicest moments of my entire life,” Cano said of the recognition, through team interpreter Brandon Quinones. “This is what we fight for. This is what we work for. I think it’s one of the most incredible moments baseball has given back to me.”
Bautista, like his good friend Cano, has made a rapid rise to the back of the bullpen. He hasn’t just become a reliable closer. He’s morphed into one of the best in Major League Baseball. His 22 saves and 1.16 ERA rank third and fourth, respectively.
“I think it’s something that’s going to be nice to be a part of, both [Cano and I] making it to our first All-Star Game together,” Bautista said through Quinones. “Having that friendship that we created since last year, just really looking forward to getting to represent our city and our team.”
Hays, meanwhile, is finally seeing the fruit of his labor. He made his MLB debut in 2017 but until this year had only made it through one full season without a trip to the injured list, and that’s only because he opted to play through a hand injury in 2022 instead of missing time. This year, he holds the third-highest batting average in the American League.
However, he had to leave Sunday’s game with a hip contusion. Hyde said Hays will be day to day.
Still, he wasn’t sure if he had done enough to make his first All-Star Game. On Sunday, Hyde held a team meeting before the Orioles’ series finale against the Twins. Hyde announced Rutschman, Bautista then Cano as All-Stars. Hays thought that may have been the end of the list.
Then he heard his name.
“It’s very exciting,” Hays said. “Just to be noticed for the work that I’ve done, being a part of what this organization stands for and being a winning ballclub now and being a piece of that, it all just goes into being selected to this. It’s just a huge honor for myself and just being a part of this organization.”