Michael Rutledge Interview

Redshirt freshman Michael Rutledge (6-2.5, 210), a highly recruited infielder from Cullman, Alabama, talked about his expectations this year for himself and the team and the difficulty of having to sit out his true freshman season due to an injured wrist.

Describe the difference between high school and college baseball.
"In college ball every pitcher is like everybody's number one pitcher from high school. Because of that, it is a big adjustment for a hitter. I also moved from short to third. And playing third base in college is a challenge because it is the hot corner and you get some pretty hot shots hit at you."

A lot was expected from you last season, but an injury cut your true freshman season short. In fact, you wound up redshirting. When were you injured and what was the extent of your injury?
"I played all fall and was fine. I think what happened was I developed really bad tendinitis or tore some ligaments after lifting weights so much. We really didn't lift that much in high school. In the spring, after we started practice, it started to hurt a week into practice when I was swinging the bat. It became almost impossible to do anything. I tried to tough it out by taping it and doing everything I could do to play, but after I played 9 or so games we had to make a decision . At that time, it was hurting too bad and was almost unbearable pain. And if I had played anymore I wouldn't have been able to get a medical redshirt, so, I decided to put it in a cast and go from there."

How long did you have to wear the cast and what did you have to do after the cast was removed?
"I wore the cast for seven weeks. After I took it off, I had to rehab for a month or two. While I was still rehabbing, I went up to Ohio (Great Lakes League) in the summer and played. I had a little pain at the beginning of the season due to my arm being a little weak, but after about two weeks into the season the pain went away. After that, I didn't have any problems all summer. I played pretty good but it was a little hard getting back into it. The first half of the season I hit about .200, but after I got my strength back I hit close to .350, so I ended up hitting about .260 for the summer. I felt good about it after it was over. This fall, I didn't have any problems (with my wrist)."

You mentioned that you switched to third base. Did you play third base in Ohio? If so, did it help you make the adjustment?
"Yes, I did. That helped a lot."

Playing third base this fall, how do you think you did, defensively?
"I felt like I did good defensively. I only made something like 1 or 2 errors all fall. I'm excited about the move."

You and true freshmen Ed Easley are battling for the spot at third. Have the coaches said who will start at third base when the season starts?
"They haven't really told us who is going to start. I guess Coach Polk will make that decision before the first game."

Describe yourself as a player? What will MSU fans see, offensively and defensively, when you get on the field?
"On defense, I'm not afraid to dive for the ball and put my body at risk to stop the ball. I feel like I have a pretty strong arm and pretty good hands. I'm also pretty quick. I ran a 6.7 or 6.8 sixty this fall. Offensively, I hope to hit like I did in high school. I hit with some power. My senior year I hit 16 home runs. This summer, I hit 4 or 5 with a wooden bat while playing in a stadium that is bigger than ours. So I feel I should hit with some power. I also hope to hit for average. We've worked with my swing a little bit and it feels good right now. I had a tendency to hit around the ball a little bit. We've worked on my hand route, going straight to the ball and keeping my hands inside. That's help make the balls I hit to right field jump a lot."

Did you hit with power this past fall?
"I hit a couple of home runs during the fall scrimmages. And during BP (batting practice) I hit a few every now and then."

Since you've been here, have you gotten a lot stronger?
"Yeah. Since I've gotten here, I've gained almost 20 pounds of what I think is muscle. My bench press has gone up almost 100 pounds. When I first got here, I was probably maxing 200 or a little over. Now, I'm close to 300."

I've noticed a lot of the baseball players are starting to look like outside linebackers on the football team. Have you guys changed your workout routine in the weightroom?
"I think baseball has changed a lot. Like you've seen in the major leagues, everybody is getting a lot stronger. The stronger you are, the quicker your bat is going to be and the more chance there is for power and home runs. Even your base hits should increase. If you are strong and you get jammed inside, you have a better chance to get a blooper and get on base. I think that being stronger helps your hitting, but you have to make sure you maintain your flexibility. Due to that, we stretch a lot."

Now that you will be getting on the field and playing this year, what are your expectations and what are you most looking forward to this season?
"I'm just looking forward to playing. I came in last year and wanted to play a lot, but I got hurt. It really bummed me out. I'm really looking forward to playing, especially in front of the big crowds and the people in the (Left Field) lounge."

This year's team is not really ranked that high in the polls. What are your expectations for the team after going through the fall and the early spring practices?
"I think we had a pretty good fall. I talked to some of the people who are big fans and have watched the team for a long time. They watched most of the fall practice and said that they thought that this was the best fall that a Mississippi State team has had."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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