O's option former top prospect G-Rod after 9-run start

May 27th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- ’s early big league struggles have sent him back to the Minors. But that doesn’t change the Orioles’ confidence in the 23-year-old eventually becoming a top-tier Major League starting pitcher.

After Friday night’s 12-2 loss to the Rangers at Camden Yards, Baltimore optioned the rookie Rodriguez to Triple-A Norfolk. The 6-foot-5 right-hander allowed nine runs (eight earned) in 3 1/3 innings in the defeat, raising his ERA to 7.35 through his first 10 MLB starts.

Manager Brandon Hyde called the move a “reset” for Rodriguez, who was routinely flashing high-octane stuff -- including a four-seam fastball that averaged 96.7 mph, per Statcast -- despite his inconsistent results.

“It’s more normal than not to have a guy come up here and go through a little bit of adversity, go back down, know and understand what he needs to work on to get back up here, know that he can have success up here,” Hyde said. “We think he’s going to be a really, really good starting pitcher in this league.”

There were plenty of ups and downs over the past two months for Rodriguez, who opened the season with Norfolk after recording a 7.04 ERA in five Grapefruit League starts this Spring Training. However, he made only one Triple-A start before getting his first callup to the Majors. When Kyle Bradish went on the injured list with a right foot contusion on April 5, Baltimore filled his rotation spot with Rodriguez, the club’s former top prospect.

Rodriguez, a native of Nacogdoches, Texas, who was selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, made his big league debut in his home state on April 5, allowing two runs over five innings in the Orioles’ 5-2 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Field. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the No. 6 overall prospect in baseball at the time.

Rodriguez recorded a team-high 56 strikeouts -- including nine over five scoreless innings vs. the Tigers at Comerica Park on April 29 -- but he struggled working deep into games. He pitched into the sixth inning only once, on May 9, when he allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Rays at Camden Yards.

In half of Rodriguez’s 10 starts, he allowed two or fewer runs. In each of the other five, he gave up four or more.

“The inconsistency’s a little frustrating,” Rodriguez said Friday night. “We know it’s there, just got to go out and do better than that."

Baltimore will need to decide how to fill Rodriguez’s rotation spot moving forward. The corresponding roster move announced Saturday was the promotion of left-hander , who will join the club’s bullpen.

The top starting option at Triple-A Norfolk is left-hander , who opened the season in the Orioles’ rotation and struggled over his first three starts. However, he was sent down last Sunday after a brief stint in Baltimore’s bullpen and won’t be eligible to return by Wednesday, when the O’s will need a starter for their series finale vs. the Guardians.

One candidate is right-hander , who has a 4.10 ERA in 18 relief appearances this season. The 30-year-old has a 1.96 ERA over his past 13 outings, including a season-long 3 2/3-inning showing in relief of Rodriguez on Friday vs. Texas.

Voth posted a 3.04 ERA over 17 starts for the Orioles last season (his first year with the team). Hyde said that’s “definitely something we’ll consider” while making this decision.

Eventually, Rodriguez will get another opportunity in the Orioles’ rotation. But Hyde reiterated pitchers can’t “out-stuff” the competition in the Majors and that Rodriguez will need to make some corrections in order to have success.

“This level is just so much different that you have to be able to command your fastball,” Hyde said. “You have to be able to throw your offspeed in fastball counts. You’ve got to be able to work to both sides of the plate. You’ve got to be able to put a guy away with two strikes. You’ve got to be able to go deep in the game. 

“And those are all things that all starting pitchers have to do, and the good ones do it consistently for a long time and get paid a lot of money because of it. He’s going to be that type of guy. Just right now, we feel like the right thing to do for him is to go work on those things and come back up here and be ready to help.”