Rodriguez begins a throwing program, plus other pregame notes from Cincy

CINCINNATI – Orioles pitcher Grayson Rodriguez, on the 15-day injured list since May 1 - retroactive to April 30 - with right shoulder inflammation, started a throwing program today off flat ground at Great American Ball Park. He made throws from 60 to 75 feet.

Orioles pitching coach Drew French, in a pregame interview with reporters, said Rodriguez's return is still to be determined.

“We’re going to take it one step at a time. We’re just going to keep stacking days on top of each other. Hopefully give him a couple of bullpens before we release him back," said French.

French isn’t sure yet whether Rodriguez, who is 4-1 with a 3.71 ERA over six starts, will need a rehab assignment.

“Right now we’re just looking at the early stages, like getting him to his first bullpen. That is what kind of today looked like.”

But it was a nice step for Rodriguez.

“Great news,” said French. “Today was a really good day for him. Tomorrow is obviously an off-day, but we’ll check in and we’ll throw again with him. Going to take it one day at a time. We’ve got a tentative plan right now, but ultimately it’s about him feeling good on that day before and after he plays catch.

“We’re going to take it slow. Make sure we take care of him. Get him back to feeling good before we ask him to compete again.”

French was asked about reliever Craig Kimbrel, who was replaced in the ninth inning last night. He said Kimbrel is healthy now. But he's obviously struggled in several recent appearances.

“A lot of it is execution-based," French said. "But when it comes to pitchers, in their deliveries and how they move, a lot of times it can be kind of like a slow leak. And it’s something you don’t recognize and don’t see maybe for a few outings. So I think, as a staff, it’s really important to be in front of those guys and then try to get the information in front of the player at the right time. It’s a two-way street and a two-way conversation. So ultimately, it’s about getting him back to being kind of nasty Craig Kimbrel. So that is what the focus has been.”

How do the Orioles do that?

“Execution is part of it. But just a lot of it is belief," French said. "Belief and confidence and seeing himself do well. That’s kind of the springboard for all of these guys.

“I know the result last night wasn’t great, but he threw the ball better than the line would say.”

Cowser back in lineup: Colton Cowser, the American League Rookie of the Month for March/April, gets his first start of this series today versus a tough lefty in Cincinnati’s Nick Lodolo (3-0, 1.88 ERA).

Cowser got off to a fast start at bat that has cooled lately. And when he talked with reporters earlier this series about his award, he noted that.

He was not bragging about his fast start, but wondering about how it’s been going since then.

To get that award, over 28 games in March and April, Cowser hit .303 with six homers and 18 RBIs and was slugging .632.

But in his last 10 games he is batting .103 (3-for-29) with 15 strikeouts and one RBI.

“I think as we go on the league makes adjustments to you, and trying to recognize what is going on right now, have been struggling a little bit the past week and a half," Cowser said. "You know, I think continuing with the same process can maintain the same confidence throughout the year, and that’s important.”

Asked if he has been pitched differently during his current stretch of slowed production, Cowser seemed to point the finger back at himself.

“Yes and no,” he said. “I would say just getting approached a little bit differently, but not quite as much as I am making it seem like in my head. You know, just looked at some of the numbers today, some of the pitch percentages and things like that, and they are pretty much about the same. It’s mainly just kind of an approach thing right now. Have to work to get back on (time in hitting) the fastball, and when I do that it allows me to adjust to the other, off-speed stuff.”

He and the Orioles have a tough order today against Lodolo, and Baltimore batters have scored just five runs this series and only 18 the past six games. But with the Orioles' strong pitching run lately, they have gone 5-1 in those games.

O’s batters have 10 hits or more in 10 games so far this year, going 9-1. But they have gone 12 straight games with nine hits or fewer. In those dozen games they are batting .220 with a .692 OPS and scoring 3.9 runs per game. But the club is 8-4 in that span.

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