Patrick Teale

Blake Rutherford is working on his timing in camp and he's excited for his first full season.

TAMPA, FL -- Blake Rutherford, last year's first round pick, had a whale of a debut season. While it was cut short due to a minor injury, he says he worked out hard this past offseason. In camp since January, he says he is working on getting his timing down in Spring Training games and he is very excited about his first full season coming up in 2017.

Rutherford hit a whopping .351 with 15 extra-base hits in 33 combined games between the Gulf Coast League and Pulaski Yankees last year but missed a couple of weeks there towards the end of the season with a minor hamstring injury.

"It was just a precautionary thing, a little hamstring tightness," Rutherford said.  "We didn't want to rush it.  We wanted to make sure I could get back and be able to participate in Instructs.

"Obviously I was upset and frustrated that I wasn't able to finish the year but overall it was a fun season, and I learned a ton about being a professional and how to conduct myself.  I'll definitely take those experiences and those lessons with me into this year."

He went into his first offseason this year with a few items on his 'to do' list.

"I lifted, I did speed training, I worked on my running form to stay healthy, but really I worked on my flexibility and put on good weight that would help me and benefit me during the season."

Listed at 195 pounds last year, he reported to camp at 205 pounds this year and looks strong in all of the right places.  He, like many players entering their first full season, has heard how difficult it can be to maintain one's weight and strength over the course of a 140-plus game season.

"I want to maintain that as much as possible but it's hard since you're playing so many games so I've got to keep eating healthy and sticking to the process.  I want to stay healthy for all the games this year."

Staying healthy is obviously a foundation goal for Rutherford in 2017.  But an even more basic goal for him is to not fall into the mental pitfalls that come with playing during a long season too.

"I want to take every game by itself; don't link them together, don't link at-bats together," he said adamantly.  "I need to think of every at-bat as a fresh start because in a long season sometimes you can link at-bats together and that'll obviously lead to a longer struggle.  I'm just having fun and hopefully I'll be enjoying my first full year somewhere."

Excited for what lies ahead for him in 2017, Rutherford, who has been in Tampa for three fulls months already, is making the most of his first ever Spring Training camp.

"I feel like it's going really good," he said of camp.  "It's been a lot of fun obviously and I've been here since January so I've been here for a while.  But I'm only now starting to get more live reps in games but so far I'm really happy with how it's going.  Everything is feeling good so I'm excited.

"Just continuing to work on my defense and my timing at the plate.  Obviously it's still early [in camp] and my timing is still coming along but I'm progressing a lot.

"I'm definitely benefiting from the coaching and being around all the players.  I think with the players we have this could be a really special year for all the affiliates at every level just because of how many talented players and coaches."

Seeing first-hand the glutton of talent the Yankees have up and down their minor league system has Rutherford even more excited about what could be this coming season, to the point where individual goals have taken a clear back seat to team ones.

"I want to win a championship somewhere with an affiliate, that's the big thing," he insisted.  "I don't really know [what I want to accomplish] individually, I'll have some time to set individual goals.  The main thing though for me is to help my team, whichever affiliate I'm at, win a championship.

"I don't think there would be anything better than winning a championship with a group of guys and then hopefully carry that winning tradition up with us as we get older."

There is a lot of excitement brewing at the minor league level for the Yankees and Rutherford, a big part of that excitement, can't help but get caught up in that excitement too heading into his first full season.

"I'm really excited.  I had a lot of fun last season and I'm excited for this season.  It's baseball, the greatest sport, so I'm excited for whatever lies ahead," he concluded.


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