After final spring game, starting rotation in place and bullpen shaping up

As spring training began, it seemed like there was a great chance it would end with O’s top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez heading north to join the team for Opening Day. His MLB debut would await. 

But now we all will have to wait.

The debut is on hold and Rodriguez will start this season on the roster of Triple-A Norfolk. Just where he ended last year.

The spring began with great anticipation to see Rodriguez pitch in spring games and bigger anticipation to see what he could do against MLB hitters in games that count. He had been dominant on the farm and ranked for some of his time there as the sport’s No. 1 pitching prospect.

But as spring camp closed, Grayson was not pitching well enough to make the starting rotation with Opening Day set for Thursday. He will not be with the team in Boston and his MLB debut will have to wait again.

He allowed 11 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings his last three starts and had a big inning against him each game. 

“He just didn’t really have a good start this spring and kind of didn’t get out of the fourth inning,” Elias said Monday in Sarasota. “Even at the end that was the case, and it seemed like that second time through the order in that third inning was an issue. I thought he wasn’t able to establish his slider as well as we’ve seen him do in the past, command’s not as good as we’ve seen in the past, and these other guys stayed healthy and pitched better and they all have major league track records and they’ve earned these spots, too."

Now it is up to Rodriguez to respond to this news, which had to be quite discouraging for him, in the right way. By getting his pitches right and dominating Triple-A hitters.

As spring began the opportunity for him was there. A door to the rotation was ajar. But now he goes back to the farm where he will need to pitch well and await the next opportunity. If the O’s starting five stays healthy and pitches well early on this year and for some length of time, he may have to wait now for that same opportunity that was just there.

It’s disappointing and maybe surprising to some fans around Birdland. Former skipper Buck Showalter used to say “delayed, but not denied” and that is how Grayson has to look at it now.

Meanwhile Elias said service time considerations did not factor into decisions to send both DL Hall and Rodriguez to the minors.

"I really get frustrated with that topic, too," he said. "We had five starting pitchers here, with all of them established major league success as starting pitchers. They had good camps, better camps than these guys, and it really wasn't tough to decide on that last rotation spot through the lens of who do we want to help us win these games, and at least the first five games of the season. We'll take it from there after those games. And once you get past that, OK, do we want to put these guys in the bullpen? And the answer is 'no,' so we option them.

"Adley (Rutschman) got hurt last year, that was unfortunate. As soon as he was healthy, we brought him up. Gunnar Henderson, we brought him up. He's obviously making the team. When guys are ready and the job is theirs and there's not better options, we bring them up to the major league team. We're going to continue to do that."

So, the starting five to begin the year is set in this order as Kyle Gibson, Dean Kremer, Cole Irvin, Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells.

New bullpen lefty: The Orioles could have three left-handers in the bullpen on Opening Day. Cionel Pérez and Keegan Akin are expected there and they could be joined by 33-year-old southpaw Danny Coulombe. Reports indicated he opted out of his deal with the Minnesota Twins on Monday and will join the Orioles.

Last night the team officially announced his acquisition as a trade, adding Coulombe from the Twin for cash considerations. He has yet to report to the team as of last night. Also Monday, it was reported that Rule 5 pitcher Andrew Politi was placed on waivers by The Boston Globe.

Coulombe, pronounced Koo-lahm, went 0-0 with a 1.46 ERA in 12 1/3 innings last season for the Twins. He was a non-roster invitee to Twins spring training this year and pitched well in spring games with an ERA of 0.00. Over nine innings he allowed eight hits and one unearned run with four walks to 13 strikeouts, and he allowed a .242 batting average against.

Coulombe made the 2022 Twins Opening Day roster, his third career OD roster and first since making Oakland in 2018. But on Oct. 20, 2022, he was outrighted off the Twins' 40-man roster and elected free agency. Then Minnesota resigned him to a minor league deal last December. Now, apparently not on the final Twins Opening Day roster, he elected to opt-out of his deal there and winds up in Baltimore. 

In 194 career MLB games, he has a 3.92 ERA in 192 2/3 innings with a WHIP of 1.313. He allows 1.0 homers per nine with a 3.7 walk rate and 8.4 strikeout rate.

He is not a hard thrower, averaging 91.2 mph on his fastball that he used 38 percent of the time in the majors last year. He threw his slider 28 percent, changeup 20 and curveball 14 percent.

In his big league career lefty batters have hit just .236 with a .637 OPS against him and right-handers have hit .246/.764.

The Orioles lost 8-2 to St. Louis in their spring finale to finish camp with a record of 16-13-3. They went 10-4-1 over the last 15 games.

Next up, announcing the final 26-man roster and Opening Day. 




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