Grayson Rodriguez awed by Camden Yards

April 12th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BALTIMORE -- “It really doesn’t feel real.”

might have had a hard time believing what happened Tuesday night at Camden Yards, but there were 12,305 witnesses in the stands -- including his parents, Gilbert and Temple, and his younger brother, Garner -- who can attest to it being real life. Most of them were even wearing an orange T-shirt with Rodriguez’s name on it.

In conjunction with Rodriguez’s first big league home start, the Orioles gave away shirts. The front read “Gas ‘Em Up!” and featured a gas can with a “K” on it -- symbolizing the 98-99 mph “gas” the 23-year-old right-hander frequently blows past opposing hitters -- as well as his name, “Grayson Rodriguez.”

The back read “Welcome to The Show.”

“People coming to the game, getting a T-shirt with my name on it,” Rodriguez said, “that’s something that I guess I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid, and it came true.”

Rodriguez wanted more than a shirt, though, and he still does. He hopes to be a successful MLB pitcher. It’s been his goal his entire life, one that truly became attainable after he was selected by Baltimore with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.

One week ago, Rodriguez made his big league debut in Arlington, Texas, roughly 175 miles northwest of where he grew up in Nacogdoches. That was memorable, but Rodriguez’s wealth of supporters was still outnumbered by Rangers fans. On Tuesday, the cheers were even louder because he pitched in front of a home crowd of Orioles fans.

“Man, that was probably the most awesome thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Rodriguez said. “To see Oriole Park at Camden Yards from the pitcher’s mound -- that’s something I’ll never forget.”

It may become easy to remember, considering Rodriguez could be pitching here a lot in the years to come. But these early trips to the hill in Baltimore may come with some growing pains. Manager Brandon Hyde has stated there will be a “learning process” for Rodriguez, and that was evident in his outing against the A’s.

Rodriguez allowed five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. He issued four walks -- three of which came in a span of four batters in the fifth to load the bases with one out and end the righty’s night. All three then came in to score after reliever entered the game.

Oakland knocked six hits off Rodriguez, all of them coming with two-strike counts. He had particular trouble in those situations. Eighteen of the 23 batters he faced worked it to two strikes and 10 of them reached base.

But Hyde noted an encouraging sign -- Rodriguez’s stuff looked better than in his debut. He averaged 97.2 mph and reached 98.9 with his four-seam fastball, per Statcast, and also induced 15 total whiffs -- the most by an Orioles starter in an outing this season.

“The guy’s throwing 98 with a good slider and a really good changeup,” Hyde said. “There’s places to go when you’re ahead in the count to get an easy out or get a punchout.”

Rodriguez will try to do a better job of finishing off hitters next time out. Hyde confirmed Rodriguez will be making another start for Baltimore, and it could come Sunday afternoon vs. the White Sox in Chicago, assuming he stays on schedule.

Even though Rodriguez is aiming to solidify his spot in the Orioles’ rotation for good, he isn’t taking that approach to his starts.

“I have to block that out of my mind,” Rodriguez said. “Just trying to go out and put the team in the best position to win.”