Taking a look at a top O’s pitching prospect not named Bundy or Gausman

He is one of the Orioles’ top young pitchers, but like most pitchers in the O’s organization this past season, he got overshadowed by Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. But Eduardo Rodriguez had a third straight strong season in 2012 and most consider him the club’s best pitching prospect after the Bundy-Gausman duo.

In November, Baseball America rated Rodriguez, a 19-year-old lefty from Valencia, Venezuela, as the Orioles’ fifth-best prospect in its top 10 ranking.

After pitching to an ERA of 2.33 in 2010 in the Dominican Summer League and 1.81 the following season in the Gulf Coast League, Rodriguez went 5-7 with a 3.70 ERA this season with Single-A Delmarva in his first year of full-season ball. Over 107 innings, he allowed 103 hits with 30 walks, 73 strikeouts and a .251 batting average against in the South Atlantic League.

“He made absolutely unbelievable progress this past season,” Orioles director of pitching development Rick Peterson said. “We got positive feedback on him from our scouts, but also other teams’ scouts. He had a nice velocity increase and has been a dominant strike thrower. He has a plus change-up and throws two different change-ups that have really developed into quality pitches.

“Toward the end of the season and coming into instructional league, he’s really developed a quality slider. It has late depth to it, but it’s a pitch that isn’t consistent right now.”

Peterson said Rodriguez made progress in many aspects of his game this year.

“He really grew up as a person,” Peterson said. “This is the first year he’s ever worked out all year and had a conditioning program. Our conditioning people did a phenomenal job with him. He really has grown up and matured. Plus, just developing the attitude and habits he’ll need to take the next step. He’s got great competitive awareness and is mature beyond his years. He kind of got the feeling this year that ‘You know what? I’m pretty good here.’ “

Rodriguez is 9-12 with an ERA of 2.97 over 221 1/3 innings in three minor league seasons. Also, his fastball gained a few ticks during the 2012 season.

“As it evolved from spring training he was 89, 90, 91 and it kept creeping up and he got to the point where he touched 93 and 94 and pitched at 92 and 93 mph. So I have high expectations that he could be a lefty that pitches at 93, 94 and touches 95,” Peterson said.

“The sky is the limit for him. I hate to project where he could end up by the end of next year, but he is on his way to write his own ticket, let me say it that way.”

For now, Rodriguez looks every bit the talented pitching prospect the Orioles hoped he could become. Now he’ll look to take the next step next season.

“It’s just being able to go to the post 25, 26 starts next year and maybe increase his innings total to that 150 or 160 range,” Peterson said. “To be able to take that load on and stay healthy and keep his conditioning program going, now you are starting to grow into what a big league pitcher does. You start to realize that preparation equals performance and he found out this year the better he prepared, the better he performed.”

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