Rodriguez and Irvin make final spring appearances, Henderson and Rutschman hit tape-measure homers

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Grayson Rodriguez won’t make his next start until Saturday at Camden Yards. When the games actually matter.

The importance of today’s outing was getting in a little more work and staying healthy. He wasn’t pitching for a spot on the team.

This isn’t 2023.

Rodriguez shut out the Twins on two hits over three innings, with one walk and three strikeouts. He threw 52 pitches, 29 for strikes.

Alex Kirilloff saw nine of those pitches before striking out on a changeup as Rodriguez’s final batter.

“Definitely wanted to pitch up on the zone. Think we kind of did that pretty well,” he said.

“Wanted to make sure to throw sliders in to lefties. Did that, too. Changeup was working and so was the curveball. Glad we could end this on a good note.”

Rodriguez has a 3.07 ERA in his five starts. He allowed five runs and 16 hits with eight walks and 10 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.

“I’d say it could always be better,” he said. “I don’t think I was striking out enough guys. Wish that number was a little bit higher, but we’re saving those for the season and that’s how we’ll put it.”

The Orioles optioned Rodriguez near the end of camp last spring but pegged him as their No. 2 starter this season. He knows how his pitches play at the major league level. He knows he can get hitters out, as he did in the second half.

Fighting for a job wasn’t necessary.

“Obviously, you don’t want to be too relaxed in spring training,” he said, “but just being able to kind of come in here and get work, focus on things that I need to make better and not necessarily just making the club, obviously that helped me out a lot.”

Rodriguez is incorporating a two-seam fastball and becoming more comfortable with it in games.

“I think it’s going to depend on the lineup, I think what the other team shows,” he said. “Obviously, using it to both sides. But yeah, it’s going to depend on the lineup, I think.”

Edourd Julien drew a leadoff walk in the first inning and tried to score with two outs on Royce Lewis’ double down the left field line. Austin Hays retrieved the ball and fired to shortstop Gunnar Henderson, who nailed Julien at the plate. Henderson pointed his glove at Hays and headed for the dugout.

That’s as close as the Twins came to scoring.

* Cole Irvin replaced Rodriguez in the fourth and worked five innings. He allowed two runs and six hits, walked three batters, struck out one and hit a batter. He threw 80 pitches, 48 for strikes.

The Twins loaded the bases in the sixth on two singles and a hit batter, but Jay Harry lined to right fielder Tyler Nevin. Irvin retired the side in order in the seventh and got a double play grounder in the eighth after a leadoff walk.

Irvin lowered his spring ERA to 6.23.

* Henderson saw eight pitches in his at-bat against Twins starter Joe Ryan in the top of the first inning. The last, a 95.4 mph fastball, cleared the right field fence for his second home run.

The ball left his bat at 110.4 mph and traveled an estimated 451 feet. He got all of it.

Adley Rutschman came off the bench and couldn’t resist topping Henderson. He hit a three-run homer off right-hander Jorge Alcala in the seventh for a 6-2 lead, with the ball traveling 460 feet and bouncing off the roof above the right field bleachers.  

That one was 107.7 mph off the bat, so Henderson maintained some bragging rights.

Ryan O’Hearn led off the second with a single, moved up on a balk and James McCann fielder’s choice, and scored on Ramón Urías’ fly ball that Manuel Margot ran down in deep left-center field.

O’Hearn also walked in the fourth and had a run-scoring double in the sixth after Ryan Mountcastle singled that broke a 2-2 tie. He finished with a .325 average and .438 on-base percentage.

Jordan Westburg had a two-run single in the eighth to give the Orioles an 8-2 lead.

Colton Cowser entered the game in center field in the fifth inning and struck out in both at-bats to make him 3-for-23 since March 13.

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