Orioles unsure of next step with Rodriguez or when Wells will begin throwing

Last night’s postponement due to the inclement weather and ominous forecast, which carries into this morning, led to the easy decision by the Orioles to push back Kyle Bradish for the series finale against the Blue Jays.

Cole Irvin was supposed to start today, but he could pitch Friday night against the Mariners in the third leg of the season’s longest homestand. This is working under the assumption that today’s game is played or rescheduled for Thursday’s mutual off-day if rain again impacts the schedule.

Meanwhile, the Orioles haven’t decided what’s next for Grayson Rodriguez and whether a six-man rotation is imminent. That’s a much harder call.

Rodriguez had another successful side session on Sunday, meaning that his shoulder is pain-free and he’s built up to 30 pitches. He’s expected to throw again in the bullpen, which could lead to a brief rehab assignment or reinstatement from the injured list.

It’s all in the timing, how quickly he is deemed ready to face major league hitters. The longer it takes, of course, the more likely that he joins an affiliate. He hasn’t appeared in a game since April 29 and was eligible to return today.

“I don’t have his next pitching assignment and where and when that will be, but the heavy bullpen he did the other day went well,” said executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias. “To kind of use the parlance that I’ve been using, I feel like that one’s kind of pointed in the right direction, moving in the right direction. So until we encounter any type of interruption or negative setback, I’m hopeful there’s going to be some good news on him pretty soon. But we don’t have a date or a place that he’s going to go pitch in games yet for public consumption.”

The other starters seem locked in, with the rotation’s 3.27 ERA before last night ranking third in the American League and an improvement over last season’s 4.14 that was seventh. No one has fallen into a slump. And that leads the Orioles to consider going with six, especially in June with only a single off-day.

“That would be the other component,” Elias said. “We obviously plan for these trajectories and these scenarios, but in terms of deciding a path, we tend to wait until the last possible moment, because if we get an injury or something crazy happens, no longer do you have to worry about such things. We’re planning for each of those scenarios, but in terms of making a decision or picking a path, we’re going to wait and get as much info as we can about the health picture.”

Speaking of which, Tyler Wells isn’t trending the same as Rodriguez. He hasn’t pitched since April 12 due to elbow inflammation and is shut down in Sarasota while rehabbing. Manager Brandon Hyde is asked almost daily for updates but there's nothing to pass along.

Wells hasn’t reached the point where the Orioles can begin mapping out a program.

“His elbow was bothering him and we are still in the mode of waiting for symptoms to dissipate before we can ramp up any type of throwing, so right now he’s basically getting treatment and resting, and this isn’t something that we’ve emerged from the woods on yet and we have a timetable and in fact we’re seeking additional opinion. So I don’t have a whole lot to report, unfortunately,” Elias said.

“He’s just kind of in the mode where we’re waiting to get positive indicators such that we can start a rehab. And until we get those indicators. I don’t have much of an update. We’re keeping our fingers crossed but this is not something that we are in any way over the hump yet. He’s had elbow discomfort and we’re not at the point yet of moving into a build-up phase.”

The Orioles selected Wells with their second pick in the 2020 Rule 5 draft, the year after he underwent Tommy John surgery. He missed six weeks in 2022 with a right oblique strain and returned to the injured list in September with right shoulder inflammation, which had shut him down late the previous year.

The elbow is a new concern for the organization.

Wells has undergone tests, but the club isn’t ready to share the results. It’s gathering more information and monitoring his recovery, hopeful that there’s improvement and he can begin to play catch.

“Obviously, I think the fact that we haven’t come out and announced that yet means that it’s up in the air still and we’re getting additional looks at it, at him, right now because of the persistent discomfort,” Elias said. “But we’ll address that when it’s responsible to do so.”

Wells seemed like a strong candidate to move into the bullpen because of the crowded rotation and his past success in the role. He could have joined the closing crew while Craig Kimbrel is removed from save situations, for however long.

Relief is an area that Elias could address prior to or certainly by the trade deadline. Being unable to plug Wells into the ‘pen removes one solution.

The goal now is just to get him back in 2024.

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