Big Yankees prospect Blake Rutherford talks injury recovery, hard work

Blake Rutherford

TAMPA, Fla. — Yankees first-round pick Blake Rutherford said the minor hamstring strain that ended his season has recovered and won’t affect his time at the organization’s instructional league.

“I’m 100 percent,” Rutherford said. “Just going through some things, getting ready, getting my timing back. My leg feels real good.”

Rutherford, 19, was among the dozens of young Yankees participating in Day 1 of instructional league workouts at the team’s training facility. Games won’t start for a week.

The Yankees picked Rutherford, an outfielder, with the No. 18 overall pick. They gave him a $3,282,000 signing bonus.

MLB.com ranks Rutherford the Yankees’ No. 5 overall prospect.

Rutherford played his last game Aug. 24 for rookie-level Pulaski. He said he felt pain when he was running the bases and that the team didn’t think it would be “worth it” for him to try to push through the injury.

“I took a lot of time to get it right, I put the work in and I feel real good right now,” he said. “It wasn’t a major hamstring. It was a minor hamstring. Just tight. Just wasn’t worth it to keep going through. Just wanted to be smart.”

A few other takeaways from talking to Rutherford:

FRUSTRATION: Rutherford was playing well when he got hurt. In 25 games with Pulaski, he hit .382 with two homers and nine RBI. He also posted a 1.058 OPS.

Shutting down wasn’t easy for Rutherford.

“The most frustrating part was just not being able to help my team anymore,” he said. “It wasn’t so much about the individual. Obviously playing is a lot of fun but I wasn’t able to help contribute with my team and be there with them and so that was the most frustrating part. Hopefully I learn from this and next year I can play a full season and stay healthy and help my team win.

NOT AS EASY AS IT SEEMS: Sure, Rutherford’s numbers were dominant. But he swears it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s still really hard,” he said. “It’s still a lot of work. When I first started I struggled and I had to make a lot of adjustments. This whole game is about adjustments so I think it’s always going to be hard. It’s just about how fast you can adjust but I really had a lot of fun this season. Overall it was good.”

A “DREAM”: Rutherford was asked how important it was to him to sign quickly after the draft and to start his professional career.

“It was important to get here and get started as soon as possible so I could get acclimated to the team and how they do things and the way they go about their business,” he said. “Being part of the Yankees has always been a dream of mine. To be drafted by them and signed by them and have the opportunity to play for them means the world to me that they would give me this opportunity. I’m definitely going to work my hardest and try my best to make sure they’re not disappointed with their decision.”

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