Rodriguez keeps making positive strides toward return to real games

Grayson Rodriguez is confident that he’ll pitch again in September.

The progress he’s making from a strained lat suggests that he’s right.

The Orioles say Rodriguez is scheduled for another bullpen session, followed by live batting practice and a simulated game. All of it happening this week down in Sarasota, Fla.

A prolonged shutdown period led to flat-ground throwing with increased distances, a half-mound session and then regular bullpen sessions.

Throwing live batting practice and in a sim game finally allow Rodriguez to face hitters as he nears a return.

Rodriguez, 22, was on the verge of a major league promotion when he left his June 1 start for Triple-A Norfolk with discomfort behind his shoulder, later diagnosed as a Grade 2 lat strain. He was 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA and 0.839 WHIP in 11 games, with 14 walks and 80 strikeouts in 56 innings.

The updated MLBPipeline.com organizational rankings list Rodriguez as the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect behind Norfolk infielder Gunnar Henderson, and as No. 4 overall among its top 100. No pitcher is slotted ahead of him.

Team officials also have expressed confidence in Rodriguez’s chances of pitching again later this summer. To be determined is whether he’s doing it with the Orioles in a pennant race or in the minors.

There hasn’t been much reluctance to expose prospects to the heat.

Outfielder Kyle Stowers had his contract selected from Norfolk and is going to get steady at-bats versus right-handed pitching. DL Hall is returning as a reliever later this month or in September. Infielder/outfielder Terrin Vavra has appeared in 18 games, and he came off the paternity list this afternoon.

Infielder Richie Martin was optioned to create space on the roster.

Henderson has made two starts at first base and two at second with Norfolk and could have his contract selected as early as this week. The preparation is playing out with each lineup that’s posted.

The Tides are off today and begin a six-game series Tuesday in Jacksonville. The Orioles are home for three games against the White Sox before flying to Houston and Cleveland.

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