Checking on a few Orioles with the Surprise Saguaros

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez made his third start today for the Surprise Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League, allowing one run and one hit in three innings. He walked two, struck out three and threw 27 of his 44 pitches for strikes.

Rodriguez, 20, has permitted four runs and seven hits in 8 2/3 innings for a 4.15 ERA, with five walks and eight strikeouts.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter spent a few days watching the Saguaros before flying back to Dallas, and director of player development Brian Graham arrived today.

I've talked to a few people who think Rodriguez may be tiring after logging 145 innings between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie.

"I see that a little bit," said Bowie manager Gary Kendall, who's guiding the Surprise team. "He just hasn't been consistently what they saw in Frederick or what we saw in Bowie. He started today and initially gave up two walks and a line drive single, and then he pitched out of it. His next two innings, he was unscathed. He had better command of his fastball the next two innings and he threw some good changeups and breaking balls.

"When he's gotten in trouble out here, it's been in his first inning of work."

Perhaps it's a bit of fatigue that's making it more difficult for Rodriguez to keep the ball down.

"He's elevating the ball a little bit more than he had in Bowie for us," Kendall said, "but his velocity has been good and he's been mixing his pitches well."

Kendall isn't aware of any plans to shut down Rodriguez, who went a combined 10-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 25 starts between Frederick and Bowie, with 131 hits, 49 walks and 125 strikeouts in 145 innings.

"It's not for me to say," Kendall said. "That will be up to our office and Buck and Brian and all the other people who need to make those decisions. But I haven't heard that."

Jason Gurka improved to 2-0 today, though he allowed a run and two hits in one inning in a 4-2 win over Mesa. He posted a 2.95 ERA in 20 relief appearances for Bowie this year.

"He gave up a run, but he got his breaking ball over better and pounded the strike zone with his fastball," Kendall said. "They got two ground ball singles off him. I thought he pitched much better than he had been pitching here."

Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles' top position prospect, started at shortstop and went 0-for-4 to lower his average to .125. He's 4-for-32 with a home run, three RBIs, four walks and nine strikeouts.

"He's never seemed to get on track here," Kendall said. "He went home for a couple days after the season was over. He got out here and had a couple down days where he was just taking batting practice, and it seemed like he got pressed into action and just hasn't really been on time with his barrel to the baseball. He had some games where he had some hits, but Jonathan's the type of guy who usually, when he breaks open a little bit, he starts to put good at-bats together, but we haven't seen that here.

"Today, he was chasing fastballs out of the strike zone. The effort is there, the focus is there, but he's doing a lot of pressing.

"He's played a lot more shortstop than I would have liked to play him, but we're in a spot now where we don't have a true shortstop. We have three second basemen and no true shortstop. We have a taxi squad shortstop who can play twice a week. But I don't think it's that. I just think he's pressing a little bit.

"He wants to do well so badly that he's been little overly aggressive at the plate. He hasn't gotten into many good hitting counts because he's chasing the ball up out of the zone. Lately, they haven't had to throw him a lot of strikes because he's been a little impatient, and that's because he wants to make something happen."

The Saguaros are 7-5 and in first place by 1 1/2 games in the West Division. About two weeks remain in the AFL season.


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