Grayson Rodriguez was on the mound in Bowie and O's got a big win in Baltimore

BOWIE, Md. – O’s top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez said he is less focused on results and his pitching line right now, but that should soon change. Last night the 22-year-old right-hander made his second injury rehab start.

He went 1 1/3 innings on 31 pitches last Thursday for high Single-A Aberdeen and went two innings on 40 pitches last night at Double-A Bowie.

The Baysox lost 7-3 to Richmond and Rodriguez took the loss. Over his two innings, he gave up one hit and one run with two walks and four strikeouts. His fastball topped in the 96 mph range, which was fine, he said. After throwing a 1-2-3 first inning with two strikeouts on 11 pitches, he got into some trouble in the second. He allowed a one-out double and that runner eventually scored on a wild pitch. He also walked two that inning.

But Rodriguez right now is mostly looking to get his mechanics in line and the feel for all his pitches as he slowly builds up his pitch count. He is expected to pitch again on Sunday at Bowie.

“Right now we’re focused on how the body feels, how it's moving in a game," he said. "So, really, throwing strikes is No. 1, but No. 2, taking the mechanics we had before the injury and what we had last year and getting back to those moving parts. Like obviously coming back in spring training when you are out in the offseason, that is one big thing, just finding that feel from the season before. That is what we’re doing right now. You know when the body starts moving like we want it to, then we will start worrying about the results.”

Rodriguez was 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA this year at Triple-A Norfolk before leaving his start June 1 with a Grade 2 right lat strain. But now the club’s 2018 top draft pick is back and he hopes maybe even closing in on his first shot at the majors. It could happen for him later this month and he said if the O’s call, he’s very ready.

“Absolutely. Obviously pitching in the big leagues is something I’ve always wanted to do," he said. "And that’s the main goal right now, that’s the focus. Just to get myself ready. You know, we’re close. I think this next outing is when we’ll really get in there and turn it on. You know how my body is moving, it’s feeling a lot better than last week. So I expect the same jump forward."

Rodriguez can hit triple digits with his fastball. That has not happened yet in either of his rehab games, but he said his velocity is solid right now. 

“I haven’t looked at the velocity chart yet," he said right after coming out last night, "but you know, the ball felt good. The hop was good out of hand. Spin direction was good. And so, obviously there were a few up and out of the zone. But heaters in general, I felt like I was able to get it by guys when I went up with it. So far, pretty happy with it.”

Bowie and Erie both lost last night, so they remain tied for their second-half division title in the Eastern League at 36-22 with 11 regular season games remaining. But Bowie would lose the two tiebreakers, so they are going to need to pass Erie to get the playoff spot.

O’s get a big win in Baltimore: Meanwhile in Baltimore last night, the O’s finally got some clutch hits. They went 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position in their 9-6 win over Toronto.

The Birds scored five runs in the last of the third and three in the bottom of the eighth. With that win, they pulled within 3 1/2 games of Toronto for the final American League playoff spot. They can split this four-game series and move within 2 1/2 games of the playoffs with a victory tonight.

When starter Kyle Bradish lasted just three-plus innings, O’s skipper Brandon Hyde made some earlier than usual bullpen moves to try and get this very important game. He brought in Dillon Tate in the fourth, Cionel Pérez in the fifth and Félix Bautista in the eighth for a six-out save.

"I thought we needed to win the game. I was going to do anything I can to try to win the game,” Hyde said of his bullpen usage.

Adley Rutschman came through with a two-run double in the O's third inning. It was his 28th double of the year - third-most in club history by a rookie. Cal Ripken Jr. leads that list with 32 in 1982 and Eddie Murray hit 29 in 1977. Both won AL Rookie of the Year. 

Rutschman is 9-for-20 (.450) during a five-game hitting streak with two doubles, two homers, four runs and six RBIs.

Cedric Mullins stole his 30th base last night giving the O's two players with 30 or more steals as Jorge Mateo also has 30. The last team to have two such players was Kansas City in 2018. The last O's team to do that was the 2007 club with Corey Patterson and Brian Roberts.

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