When the Orioles sent their top pitching prospect, Grayson Rodriguez, back to the minors in May after just 10 major league starts, their message was clear: His stuff can play at the major league level, but he needs to work on the command. Once that’s improved, he’ll get another phone call.
Rodriguez’s first stint in the majors was up and down. He threw two five-inning shutouts but also had three outings when he couldn’t make it through the fourth inning, giving up 22 runs in those contests. So the Orioles sent him down to work on the kinks, the team no longer in a place where it can afford to let prospects finish developing at the major league level.
After seven minor league starts, the Orioles have seen enough. Rodriguez will return to the major leagues Monday to start against the Dodgers.
“The reports have been awesome, how the command has improved,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “His stuff has always been there. It’s all about command with him. He’s throwing the ball with command down in Triple-A, and we are excited for him to start tomorrow.”
Cole Irvin will move to the bullpen. The team will need to make a move before Monday’s game to open a spot on the roster, likely involving a position player because the team is carrying 15.
The Orioles will evaluate Rodriguez as they go, but the goal is to keep him in the rotation.
“We’re in the mindset of winning games,” Hyde said. “Hopefully he sticks with us for the rest of the summer.”
To get back to the majors, Rodriguez homed in on that fastball command. He flew through the minor leagues. His first time with the Orioles was his “first taste of baseball being difficult,” he told the Baltimore Banner’s Jon Meoli last month. Opponents took advantage of his mistakes, hitting his fastball and cutter hard.
With Norfolk, he strayed from using the cutter and increased his fastball usage. He gave up only seven earned runs with 15 walks in 37 1/3 innings, the Orioles watching his usage knowing they may need him in a playoff push.
“His last few starts there have been really good,” Hyde said. “They’ve done a nice job applying what we talked about up here before he went down. We feel comfortable with where he is right now, and hopefully he can impact us positively.”