Grayson Rodriguez celebrated his 23rd birthday yesterday by hopping on a video call with some members of the local media.
One big wish had already come true for Rodriguez. The Orioles selected his contract on Tuesday, placing him on the 40-man roster at the deadline prior to next month’s Rule 5 draft.
Rodriguez referred to it as “an honor,” while others in the industry viewed it as a foregone conclusion.
Baseball’s top pitching prospect expressed his disappointment at failing to make his major league debut after recovering from a grade 2 lat strain, settling for rehab starts and a return to Triple-A Norfolk before the Orioles shut him down.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has noted the expectation that Rodriguez will break camp next spring in the rotation. Rodriguez is ready for it.
“It’s full speed ahead,” he said. “Obviously, we’re focused on the big leagues. Of course, the injury kind of derailed it last year, but moving forward that’s definitely in my focus.”
Rodriguez remains healthy after missing three months of the season, saying he’s “100 percent,” and his offseason training, focusing on strengthening the lat, has been good.
“That’s all you can ask for,” he said.
Rodriguez posted a 2.20 ERA and 0.933 WHIP in 14 starts with Norfolk, striking out 97 batters in 69 2/3 innings. He totaled 75 2/3 innings at three affiliates, compared to 103 in 2021.
The pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season, impacting Rodriguez’s ability to build innings before this year’s lat injury. They came in simulated form at the alternate camp site in Bowie.
“I think there’s a good and a bad to both of it,” he said. “The good is saving innings. Obviously, it was a good little reset for pitchers’ arms. And of course, I guess the bad part is missing out on the experience. So, in terms of health, I think we made it through all right, having a full season in 2021. I mean, really, I guess there was a good and bad to both of them.”
The Orioles must determine a comfortable range of innings for Rodriguez in 2023.
“That’s up to them. That’s something that’s out of my control,” he said.
“There’s a lot of important people that we have that work for the Orioles that get to determine that. If it was up to me, it would be as many as I could throw. So, I’ll figure that out when we get to spring training.”
* I heard that the Orioles were interested in reliever Bobby Milacki, 26, before the right-hander signed with the Padres over the weekend.
Name sound familiar?
The Orioles drafted Milacki’s father, Bob, in the second round in 1983 and brought him to the majors five years later. He made 36 starts and one relief appearance on the 1989 “Why Not?” team and went 14-12 with 3.74 ERA and three complete games.
Milacki spent five seasons with the Orioles and also pitched for the Indians, Royals and Mariners. He serves as the pitching coach for the Idaho Falls Chukars of the independent Pioneer League.
The Nationals drafted Bobby in the 38th round in 2018. He spent the last two seasons in the Twins’ system and went 6-1 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.194 WHIP in 38 relief appearances this summer with High-A Cedar Rapids. He struck out 68 batters in 63 2/3 innings.
The Padres signed Milacki to a two-year minor league contract.
* The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association announced yesterday that the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt was chosen as the recipient of the 2022 Heart and Hustle Award.
This award honors active players who “demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit, and tradition of the game.” It’s the only one in Major League Baseball that’s voted on by former players.
I mention it this morning because outfielder Austin Hays was the Orioles’ nominee, which made him a finalist for the overall honor.
Asked about it on Aug. 5, Hays said, “I was shocked. I’m very humbled to receive that. It embodies the way I try to play the game and show up every day and just give it my all. Give my teammates, the organization, the city, everything I have every day and just try to uphold the values and the character of the game day in and day out for 162 every year.
“It just makes me really proud to accept that award for the Orioles.”
* The Baseball Writers' Association of America awards are done after tonight, with the announcements of the Most Valuable Players in both leagues.
Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani and Yordan Alvarez are the American League finalists. Judge is the heavy favorite.
Did Adley Rutschman squeeze onto at least one 10-player ballot? We'll find out.