Grayson Rodriguez sizes up his outing today in Bradenton (updated, O's win again)

BRADENTON, Fla. – Break 'em up. The 2024 Orioles are spring training darlings. Today they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 in Bradenton for their ninth win in 10 Grapefruit League games. 

The Orioles held an opponent to three or fewer runs for the eighth time. Their team ERA of 3.10 is second best in the spring among all 30 MLB teams.

"A spring training juggernaut," manager Brandon Hyde joked.

And everyone is getting into the act. Connor Norby, out all spring with side soreness, made his spring debut on defense in the last of the sixth. In his first spring at bat in the eighth, he doubled to left and scored on Kyle Stowers' RBI single to tie it 2-2. Stowers hit came off another lefty. 

“Well I’ve been watching everyone else rake and I wanted to get in on the party," quipped Norby, the club's No. 6 prospect per Baseball America. "I’ve been itching since Day One. They have been taking it really slow with me and I get it, but it’s been frustrating because I want to get back out there and show what I can do. I know it was for the right reasons and I did the right thing."

Norby also walked in another plate appearance. The guy had a huge year in 2023 at Triple-A with 40 doubles, 21 homers and 92 RBIs.

“I felt pretty good," he said. "I feel like I’m seeing the ball better than I normally would at this time of the year. Even yesterday, live ABs, I didn’t hit great, but I thought I saw it well. For me that’s usually a good thing if I can just see it. But you get in the box for the first time and people are watching, little different. But it was good to get back out there. I was excited. Once the first AB was over I felt a little more settled down.”

Things are going so well for the Orioles that in the ninth, batting with two on in a 2-2 tie, minor leaguer TT Bowens bashed a three-run homer to left for a 5-2 lead. He hit it off right-hander Dauri Moreta who had 3.72 ERA in the bigs last summer.

“It was a very surreal experience," said Bowens, 25. "Just getting the opportunity to come over and play in these games means a lot, especially being a minor leaguer. You don’t know if you will get in, don’t know if you’ll get your name called. So you have to stay ready and stay present in the moment and take advantage of it," said Bowens, who has hit 33 homers on the O's farm in 908 at-bats since 2020.

Earlier, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez got the start. He said "he still has a lot work to do" but took another step today toward Opening Day with a 49-pitch outing against the Pirates at LECOM Park.

He went two innings plus one batter allowing three hits and one run with two walks and two strikeouts. 

The Pirates hit a couple of singles hard and produced three in a row with two outs in the last of the first today to take a 1-0 lead on Rodriguez and the Orioles.

He got the first two outs on eight pitches before the consecutive singles, the last by right fielder Connor Joe made it 1-0 Pirates. He hit a grounder up the middle that glanced off the glove of diving second baseman Jackson Holliday. Ke’Bryan Hayes and Rowdy Tellez singled ahead of Joe to get the two-out rally going.

Rodriguez needed 18 more pitches in the second, but he produced a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of called third strikes. Nearing his pitch-count limit, he went out for the last of the third, but then was replaced by Bryan Baker after allowing a leadoff walk.

Baker put up a zero in the third, so Rodriguez’s final line showed just the one run and he threw 27 strikes among his 49 pitches

“Being in the zone a bit more, that was my focus coming into it. The first start wasted some bullets. Today just wanted to be in the zone a little bit more," said Rodriguez. 

Per Statcast his four-seam fastball averaged 95.9 mph and topped at 97.7. Per Statcast he threw just a pair of two-seam fastballs, a new pitch for him and got two swings and misses on 16 swings, both on sliders. But after his outing, Rodriguez said the computer was not accurate in that he had more than a pair of two-seamers today.

“We mixed in some two seams," he said. "Still working on that. Gave up a couple of hits on that. But, it’s about development and all we are focused on right now.

"Obviously would like to go further. Ran out of pitches there, after struggling a little bit in the first.  Got a lot of work to do. Still really early in the spring. Just nice to be back on the mound," he added.

The Orioles tied this game 1-1 in the top of the third on Colton Cowser’s third spring homer in nine at-bats. Cowser’s leadoff homer came off lefty Martin Perez, who had set down the O’s through two innings on just 23 pitches.

Cowser got an 0-2 cutter that he hit 372 feet with 98 mph exit velocity, making him 4-for-9 this spring with three walks and six RBIs.

Cowser is 2-for-2 with two homers this spring against lefties. Doing a nice Kyle Stowers impression early on in camp.

After Baker got through the third, Danny Coulombe allowed a leadoff double, but no runs in the last of the fourth. Jonathan Heasley and Ryan Watson pitched scoreless innings, Cade Povich allowed a run in two frames and Kade Strowd pitched a scoreless ninth. 

Pittsburg took a 2-1 lead on an Abrahan Gutierrez RBI single in the last of the seventh. But that just set the stage for Norby, Stowers, Bowens and company to come back and provide the Orioles their latest win under the Florida sun. 

Because You Asked - Fresh Meat
Pregame notes on Norby, Henderson and Rodriguez

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