Considering he walked off the mound with an injury in the sixth inning of a Triple-A game with Norfolk on June 1, returning to pitch this past season in September was big for the sport’s highest-rated pitching prospect, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez.
While the Orioles didn’t get him a late-year start in Baltimore to make his MLB debut, he did make one rehab outing for high Single-A Aberdeen and two for Double-A Bowie before ending his year with three starts and pitching to an ERA of 2.63 at Triple-A.
It was nice to get to prove he was over the Grade 2 right lat strain and that he was healthy again. Today, on an Orioles zoom call with local media on his 23rd birthday, Rodriguez talked about being added to the club’s 40-man roster this week. He could start next season in the Orioles' opening day rotation.
“Obviously, it’s honor to get put on anybody’s 40-man, especially ours,” Rodriguez said this afternoon. “So, pretty excited, pretty pumped up for it. Can’t wait for spring training. And really just looking forward to what this year has in store. Just getting back out there and throwing the baseball.”
In 17 starts in 2022, he went 6-2 with a 2.62 ERA, missing time between June 1 and Sept. 1 with the injury. Over a combined 75 2/3 innings he walked 28, fanned 109, posted an 0.99 WHIP and allowed a .176 batting average against. In 14 starts at Triple-A only, he went 6-1 with a 2.20 ERA and was a postseason International League All-Star.
Rodriguez appeared on the verge of his first call to the majors when the lat injury happened. And he didn’t get a call-up at the end of the season amid speculation that he might get a start before the year ended. But when next year begins he is expected to break north in the Baltimore rotation. He said it would be disappointing for him if he didn’t.
“Me personally, yeah (it would be disappointing)," said Rodriguez, ranked as the No. 4 prospect in baseball by both Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com. “I mean, it’s full speed ahead. I’m focused on the big leagues. The injury kind of derailed it last year, but moving forward, you know, that’s definitely in my focus.
“Obviously, not getting the call (late last season) lets you know your season’s over, but I mean, you know, I was waiting for it. It didn’t come, so obviously from a player’s perspective it’s pretty disappointing. But, you know, all you can do is look forward to the next opportunity.”
Rodriguez had a 3.33 walk rate and 12.96 K rate this season. And among O’s farm pitchers with 60 innings or more, he was first in ERA, second in WHIP and third in strikeout rate.
Rodriguez said he has entered the offseason fully healthy but will still do some work on his lat and will focus on the weight room the rest of this year.
His 2022 season – despite the injury – was pretty special. In fact he had said in August that the first two months of last year produced outings as good as he’s ever had in the pro game.
"I think it was just added experience (that made those outings good), that being my third full season in pro ball. Understanding your strengths and your weaknesses. The Orioles have done a good job of, you know, getting information on me, what I do the best and going out using that each and every start. I’d say just getting a little bit older, little bit smarter with the game," he said.