They are two good-looking, young left-handed pitchers off to good starts at Single-A Frederick. One was an international amateur signing, and the other was a 50th-round draft pick.
The O’s selected Berry in 2009 in the last round of the draft - Round 50 doesn’t even exist anymore - from San Marcos High School in California.
Berry, who turned 22 in March, is the current Carolina League strikeout leader. He is 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA over five starts. In 28 innings, he has allowed 23 hits with four walks and 35 strikeouts.
Berry fanned just two batters in his first start but, over his past four, has struck out 33 in 23 innings. He is averaging 11.25 strikeouts per nine innings.
To say the least, O’s director of pitching development Rick Peterson is impressed by Berry.
“He came into spring training as if he grew up three to four years in one offseason,” Peterson said. “He came in very focused with a real understanding of what his strengths were and how to maximize them.
“The biggest improvement he has made is the mental side of the game. To have that (strikeout-to-walk) ratio means he is consistently pitching ahead in the count and giving himself an advantage. And he can put a hitter away with some swing and miss pitches.”
Berry has given up an average of .233 to lefty batters and .216 to right-handed hitters.
“His velocity is in the 91, 92 (mph) range, and he can top out at 94. He’s got a really nice changeup and a power curve that he can execute well in the strike zone. He’s got three-plus pitches. It’s exciting and he’s got a great attitude,” Peterson said.
At the age of just 20 (his birthday was April 7), Rodriguez is doing quite well in his rookie season at high Single-A, going 1-2 with a 4.70 ERA. Over 23 innings, he has allowed 24 hits with eight walks, 22 strikeouts and a 2.31 ground-to-air out ratio.
Rodriguez is rated as the O’s fifth-best prospect by Baseball America. He had an ERA of 3.32 over his first three Frederick starts but gave up seven runs over four innings his last time out. His outing followed the Keys’ all-night bus ride home and, while he doesn’t get a pass for giving up a lot of runs, it was something he will learn to handle better the next time.
“He is maturing every time he goes out there and made some huge progress last year and has picked up right where he left off with his start in Frederick. He is excited about what he is doing and is really accelerating his progress. He has a burning desire to be good,” Peterson said.
“He has really improved the consistency of his delivery, and his changeup has really come along from last year, and he’s improved his slider. He has a good understanding of pitching for someone at such a young age.”
The Orioles think so highly of the Valencia, Venezuela native, who was signed by Calvin Maduro, that they brought him to big league spring training as a non-roster invitee where he had a chance to rub elbows with and learn from some of the current Orioles.
“His coming to spring training - and that is a credit to Buck - and getting a taste of what it takes to be a major league pitcher helped him,” Peterson said. “He was around the guys, and they showed him what it takes. He has really benefited from that trip to spring training.”