Orioles rookie Grayson Rodriguez stacking ‘building blocks’ since rejoining rotation – The Denver Post

Last Updated on August 4, 2023 by Admin



In evaluating Grayson Rodriguez’s quartet of starts in the majors since returning to the Orioles’ rotation, both the rookie right-hander himself and his manager compared them with those that came before.

“A lot better than the first set,” Rodriguez said.

“Much improved over earlier in the year,” Brandon Hyde offered.

If one took the 7.35 ERA the 23-year-old posted in his first 10 majors league outings across April and May and arranged those digits in the ideal order, it would result in what Rodriguez has done since rejoining Baltimore last month. He has a 3.57 ERA in four starts, a figure that could be improved upon if not for some troubles late in his outings. That includes Wednesday night’s start against the Toronto Blue Jays, when he was one out from completing the sixth for the second straight start before consecutive full-count walks ended his night. Both runners eventually scored off reliever Shintaro Fujinami.

Those final two batters were the only ones to draw free passes off Rodriguez on Wednesday, and he also only gave up two hits. Since being called back up from Triple-A Norfolk, Rodriguez, who ranked as Baltimore’s top pitching prospect before graduating from that status last month, has held opposing hitters to a .195 average — allowing no home runs after surrendering 13 in his first big league stint — with a 20-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“That’s a good lineup,” Rodriguez said. “Whenever you can hold them to two hits, that’s a positive, so we’re going to keep working. We’re not where we want to be at yet. There were some pitches that were missed. So we’re just going to keep working, working on that command.”

Command of Rodriguez’s four-seam fastball was a particular focus while back with Norfolk. The pitch was hammered in May, a month in which he thrice allowed at least six runs while being unable to complete the fourth inning. In five outings, opponents went 21-for-42 (.500) off the pitch, with 11 of those hits going for extra bases.

Including Wednesday, opponents are 8-for-35 (.229) with only one extra-base hit off Rodriguez’s four-seamer since he’s returned to the majors. He’s notably increased usage of the pitch, as well, going from about 45% in his first stint to 52.5% since his return. The offering accounted for 55 of his 96 pitches Wednesday.

“We had some success with the heater,” Rodriguez said. “It’s building blocks. It’s just adding to the confidence a little bit.”

Rodriguez said he and Norfolk pitching coach Justin Ramsey concentrated on the pitch during his time back in Triple-A, in which he posted a 1.69 ERA and 36.5% strikeout rate. Their efforts, Rodriguez said, were about “just being able to locate the fastball to each third of the plate, going up or down with it if we want to,” while also “ripping sliders out of the zone.”

Rodriguez has used that slider more during this stretch relative to May, though it remains below the level he used it in April, when he had a 4.07 ERA in his first five major league starts. He has significantly raised his usage of his changeup, considered his best secondary weapon, while largely abandoning his cutter. That pitch accounted for almost one of every six pitches he threw in May and produced worse results than his four-seamer, but he has used it only eight times in the past four starts, according to Baseball Savant.

“Did a great job of going down and working on the things we asked him to,” Hyde said.

As it did Wednesday, the sixth inning has presented Rodriguez with some troubles. He has completed that inning in only one of his past four major league starts and thus in only one of his 14 overall. Seven of the nine runs scored off him since he was called up have come in the sixth. Four of those scored after he exited the game, with relievers unable to strand runners he left for them.

But through the first five innings of his four starts, Rodriguez has a 0.90 ERA with 16 strikeouts against three walks over 20 innings. His strikeout rate has dipped slightly from his first stint, but his ground-ball rate has jumped dramatically, a sign of inducing weaker contact.

He surpassed his career high for innings even before Wednesday, having pitched 109 1/3 frames between Baltimore and Norfolk. But he has crossed that threshold amid a solid run of major league starts, showing the ace potential he long has in the minors, and he believes more steps forward are to come.

“Whether it’s in the bullpen in between starts, being able to kind of compete with myself in that situation, and then come out, obviously, against a good lineup, pretty loud stadium, just kind of seeing how you stack up against the AL East, right now, it’s getting a little bit better,” Rodriguez said. “But we’re not where we want to be yet.”

Orioles at Blue Jays

Thursday, 3:07 p.m.


Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

Mets at Orioles

Friday, 7:05 p.m.


Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM



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