Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds right-hander Grayson Rodriguez seems to be getting better, if that’s possible, as the season gets longer.
And for someone at age 19 in his first full season of pro ball, that is beyond impressive. His stamina has been solid through 83 1/3 innings. Over his past two starts, he’s thrown eight no-hit innings with 16 strikeouts.
“Where I work out in the offseason, APEC in Tyler, Texas, they’ve done a lot for me,” Rodriguez said. “Coming into August, I’ve started throwing the hardest I have all season and that means the world to me. Usually it’s the other way around. The last couple of starts I’ve been up to 99 (mph) almost to 100. Almost to that mark and I’m going to keep working for it.
“What you put into it in the offseason, you get during the season. Just being able to have a good routine, stay healthy and keep throwing the ball,” he said.
Rodriguez said the highest velocity he reached in high school ball was 98 mph. He’s sure learned a lot during a season that has him as a prime contender for the Jim Palmer Award as the Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
“I’ve grown a lot,” he said. “Starting out the year, I didn’t really have a changeup. That was the big thing to work on. Working with (O’s minor league pitching coordinator) Chris Holt and (Shorebirds pitching coach) Justin Ramsey we figured something out and it’s worked pretty well for me so far.
“Just command (and improving it is important. Being able to fine tune all your pitches and throw them where you want to. That’s a big thing. Especially curveball and slider. Being able to locate them means everything.
Hall, who has played both shortstop and second base for Delmarva, has been behind Rodriguez for many of his starts. He’s seen him allow one earned run or less in 14 of 18 outings.
What’s it like to play behind Rodriguez?
“It’s a day off. Nothing is hit to me, everything is a strikeout. He’s a special talent,” said Hall of Rodriguez, who has a WHIP of 1.01 and .173 batting average against.
The Delmarva players are part of a group on the shore that is about to set a franchise record for wins. The 1996 Delmarva team went 83-59 and this club is 83-41. They won the South Atlantic League North first half at 48-21 which will send Delmarva to the playoffs next month for the first time since 2005.
“It’s been great,” said Rodriguez. “We’ve won a lot of games with a great pitching staff and stacked lineup. Been fun to win all those games down there.”
The Orioles have chosen to keep Rodriguez - their 2018 top pick, taken No. 11 overal - at one level all this season.
“I haven’t really been too worried about that,” said Rodriguez. “I know DL (Hall) stayed there all last year. I only worry about the things I can control.”
His pitching education grew a bit before last night’s game when the Orioles let the Delmarva players sit in on their pregame pitcher’s meeting before the series opener with Kansas City.
“They were talking about how to pitch to these Kansas City guys. We saw the questions they asked and we can learn from that,” he said.
As for Hall, who is batting .307/.385/.410 in 109 games with 70 runs and 28 steals, he talked about the excitement building for the playoffs on the shore.
“Been a record-breaking year,” the 20-year-old infielder said. “Our game has been winning. Pretty much any situation we’ve been in, we never feel like we’ll lose that game. That is the mentality we’ve had that has been a big key to our success.
“It’s always better to be winning. It is definitely something that keeps your morale up when it gets into August like now. Then the season starts to get long. But we know we have the playoffs ahead of us and that’s something to look forward to.”
Rom - like Rodriguez, is also 19 - was drafted in the fourth round in 2018. In 19 games with Delmarva, he is 6-2 with a 2.49 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. He said the trip to Baltimore was pretty cool.
“It’s been an unreal experience,” Rom said. “This is my first time actually taking in an Orioles game. When I got drafted, I just got a tour and didn’t get to see the players. It is very meaningful to learn from those guys and ask them questions.”
And the Shorebirds have kept a pretty good group of players mostly together during what so far has been a special season for Delmarva.
“It’s been amazing honestly,” Rom added. “Just having our core guys still with us and still having the talent we have. Even the guys that moved up, we can replace them. Just going out every day and competing.”
And Delmarva’s successful year is just part of an O’s farm that is now ranked No. 9 in organizational rankings by Baseball America. One that might produce as many as four playoff teams. There is some excitement building throughout the system.
“Yeah for sure. Especially with everyone that came in with the new regime. There is excitement about all the new prospects and how our previous prospects are doing. Just the chance to move up and make an impact on another team is amazing for everyone in the clubhouse,” said Rom.
Adley’s big night and other farm notes: Short-season Single-A Aberdeen’s Adley Rutschman homered last night as part of a 5-for-5 night. It was the best game so far of his short pro career. But the player the Orioles drafted 1/1 in June raised his batting average to .325 and OPS to .894. He hit a solo homer, his first with Aberdeen, adding to one he hit in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He added a three-run triple for a four-RBI night.
Rutschman has a 10-game hitting streak going. During the run he is batting .462 (18-for-39) with six doubles, a triple, a homer and 14 RBIs.
Aberdeen (35-28) is in a wild playoff chase in the New York-Penn League. They are one game out of first in their division, with four teams within a game of first place. And they are 1/2-game out in the wild card chase.
Double-A Bowie beat Binghamton 11-4 and, coupled with Erie’s loss, is two games out of first place with 14 left. Carlos Pérez (No. 13) and Preston Palmeiro (No. 5) homered. Michael Baumann, named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week yesterday, got the win last night to improve to 4-2 with a 2.31 ERA. Over five innings he allowed four runs.
Ryan Mountcastle hit his 23rd homer as Triple-A Norfolk beat Gwinnett 6-5. Mountcastle hit a two-run shot. That is the second-most homers by a Norfolk player since they became an O’s affiliate. It’s topped only by the 26 hit by Pedro Álvarez in 2017.
The Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles pitched a doubleheader shutout Monday, beating the Braves 1-0 and 2-0. The GCL Orioles are 30-13 (.698) and have the best record in their league.