Grayson Rodriguez Prepares To Take Flight In Baltimore

All winter long, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias was open about his desire to see top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez in the club’s Opening Day rotation.

Rodriguez shares that vision.

“Personally, yes, but we’ve got to show up to Sarasota, make sure we take care of our business there by going out and throwing a lot of strikes,” Rodriguez said at the team’s Birdland Caravan event in early February.

Drafted in the first round in 2018, Rodriguez was added to the 40-man roster last November after succeeding at Triple-A in 2022. Those two factors mean that taking care of business in spring training might be the only thing required for him to win a spot in the Orioles’ rotation.

Rodriguez ranked as the top pitching prospect after a 2021 season in which he struck out 161 in 103 innings between High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie. His dominance in the first half of 2022 at Triple-A Norfolk—with 80 strikeouts and a 0.84 WHIP in 56 innings—was interrupted by a lat strain that kept him out until September.

The 23-year-old Rodriguez said he spent the winter doing more dynamic arm care to strengthen the lat area and ensure he’s healthy all season. He also has been honing his cutter, a recent addition to a repertoire that also features a mid-to-high-90s fastball, a double-plus slider and a plus changeup. He also throw a curveball to give him an additional look later in games.

The Orioles added Kyle Gibson in free agency and traded for Cole Irvin in late January, and Elias said those two seem locked into the rotation entering camp. Fellow top prospect DL Hall will also be competing in a 12-man mix that also includes Michael Baumann, Bruce Zimmermann and Drew Rom.

Rodriguez’s candidacy would be strong even without the potential benefit of the Orioles gaining an extra draft pick after the first round in 2024 if he’s on the Opening Day roster and wins American League Rookie of the Year.

As it stands, he hopes to win the job on merit.

Feather Figures

– Irvin was acquired along with minor league righthander Kyle Virbitsky from the Athletics for infielder Darell Hernaiz, their No. 15 prospect this offseason. Hernaiz, 21 climbed three levels in 2022, ending at Double-A Bowie with a combined 12 home runs and .779 OPS with 32 steals. Hernaiz, a fifth-round pick in 2019, is the first prospect the Orioles have traded for a major league player under Elias.

— The Orioles’ non-roster invitee list ensured all of their Top 10 prospects were in major league camp, with 2022 No. 1 overall pick Jackson Holliday, 2021 first-rounder Colton Cowser, plus infielders Jordan Westburg Connor Norby and Coby Mayo all invited to big league camp. Other notable prospects invited include 2020 first-round pick Heston Kjerstad and Cuban signee Cesar Prieto.

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