SARASOTA, Fla. — Grayson Rodriguez should feel a little lighter this camp.

He has all the firsts out of the way: his MLB debut, a playoff start and, yes, even a demotion and a recall. Last year at this time, he was fighting for a spot on the Opening Day roster, one he did not end up earning. But now, a year later, he’s essentially a lock.

Just don’t expect him to say that.

“I’m just going out there with the same mindset,” he said. “I still have to make the team — just really making sure you get ready for the season and get through spring training healthy ready to go out there and compete for 162 games.”

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Rodriguez threw 37 pitches on Tuesday against the Tigers in his first outing of the spring, giving up one home run (which probably wouldn’t have gone out at Camden Yards, he noted) and striking out two while walking one.

He learned last year how to navigate the big leagues and all the trials and tribulations that come with it. He’s ready to move forward, from the rough start that saw him back in the minor leagues after 10 outings, to the playoff experience that was over before the second inning.

He knows this year will have its new challenges. Hitters know him now, so he’s added another pitch — a two-seam fastball — as a new weapon against right-handed batters. He still plans to go heavy on his four-seam, a pitch he threw nearly 50% of the time last year, with a handful of cutters thrown in still since they help him set up his slider.

Rodriguez said he threw the new pitch a “decent” amount on Tuesday, and that he plans to continue to fine-tune it this spring.

“Something new, so I’m still working on it,” he said. “Felt a little different throwing a fastball with a different grip, but it’s something new to try. I think we’re going to keep throwing it this year.”

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Tate gets first spring action

Orioles reliever Dillion Tate, who missed all of the 2023 season due to injury, returned to the mound against the Tigers during a spring training game. (Ulysses Muñoz)

For most, Tuesday was just another spring training game. But for Dillon Tate, it represented an important step forward.

Tate missed all of 2023 with right elbow and forearm injuries. He pitched in 13 rehab games over the course of the season, but did not touch a major league mound. Tate was cleared in September, too late to make it back for the playoffs, but just in time to give him a normal offseason.

On Tuesday, he pitched his first inning for the Orioles since 2022. He breezed through, pitching a 1-2-3 inning that included a strikeout.

“It was just good to be out with my teammates,” he said. “It’s been a while since I competed at this level.”

A fully healthy Tate can be an asset to this Orioles’ bullpen, especially with Félix Bautista sidelined for the whole season after Tommy John surgery. With Craig Kimbrel set to handle closing duties this year, Tate could join Yennier Cano, Danny Coulombe and Cionel Perez as set-up options.

“That’s the best I’ve seen him look so far,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Great sinkers, some nice sliders also, but the sinker was going straight down, low to mid-90s. It looked like D-Tate from a couple years ago.”

Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College.

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