Touted rookie hurlers pave way for O's in win No. 82

Rodriguez, Hall combine for 7 1/3 scoreless frames in their first game together at MLB level

August 29th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- and talked about this possibility after the Orioles recalled Hall from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday.

The pitchers discussed it throughout their Minor League careers, dating back to their time together at Baltimore’s alternate training site in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

What would it be like when the former first-round Draft picks became big league teammates? Or better yet, combining to help the O’s win games? Well, it finally happened on Monday night at Camden Yards.

Rodriguez cruised for six dominant innings, while Hall retired all four batters he faced in another stellar relief outing, as the young hurlers fueled a two-hit shutout of the White Sox in the Orioles’ 9-0 victory.

So, was it as fun as the good friends had imagined it being?

“It’s a lot of fun,” Rodriguez said, flashing a wide grin while standing in front of his locker after the series opener.

“Just to be in the same game as him, and it be in the big leagues, is awesome,” Hall added. “It’s something we’ve talked about for years, so it was great.”

The O’s (82-49) stretched their American League East lead to 2 1/2 games over the idle Rays (80-52), while also moving a season-high-tying 33 games above .500. In addition, Rodriguez and Hall’s first shared performance -- on their third day as Baltimore teammates -- ensured a second straight winning campaign for the Orioles.

That type of success is exactly what Baltimore was hoping to eventually achieve as it worked on developing Hall (selected No. 21 overall in the 2017 MLB Draft) and Rodriguez (No. 11 overall in ‘18) in recent years. Neither of the hurlers -- who began this season as the organization’s top two pitching prospects -- found immediate big league success, though.

Hall broke into the Majors in 2022, making one August spot start and 10 relief appearances in September/October. This season, the 24-year-old had one outing for the O’s on April 29 -- when he served as the 27th man for a doubleheader in Detroit.

But Hall has spent most of the year either at Triple-A or at the Orioles’ complex in Sarasota, Fla., where he worked on increasing his velocity.

Now, Baltimore is relying on Hall to help offset the loss of All-Star closer Félix Bautista, who is on the 15-day injured list due to a UCL injury in his right elbow. Hall has started strong, as he tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings over the past three days.

“It’s just kind of learning as you go,” said Hall, ranked as the Orioles’ No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline. “I think everybody has a different path.”

When Hall made those statements, he was actually talking about Rodriguez, who has experienced two vastly different stints in the big leagues this season.

From April 5-May 26, Rodriguez logged a 7.35 ERA over his first 10 MLB starts, which led to him being sent back to Norfolk. Since returning to Baltimore’s rotation on July 17, the 23-year-old right-hander has posted a 2.83 ERA over eight starts, the most recent of which being his gem vs. the White Sox.

Hall said he’s seen the recent version of Rodriguez “a ton” during their time together in the Minors.

“Obviously, he’s doing a great job,” Hall said. “It’s something that I knew all along that he would eventually get to. So it’s just exciting to see it pan out.”

Rodriguez retired 18 of the 20 Chicago batters he faced, allowing only a fourth-inning double to Luis Robert Jr. and a sixth-inning walk to Korey Lee. Rodriguez recorded six strikeouts while completing six innings for the fourth consecutive start.

Four of Rodriguez’s five August outings were a quality start, as he posted a 2.64 ERA in the month. He had no quality starts over his first 12 MLB appearances.

The biggest issue for Rodriguez during his initial big league outings was a lack of fastball command, which is something he’s continuing to work on. It’s paying off, as he threw his heater for 53 of his 96 pitches against the White Sox and used it to induce 10 of his 14 whiffs, per Statcast.

“The first stint up here, a lot of fastballs right down the middle. Trying to eliminate that now, working both sides of the plate, up and down,” Rodriguez said. “At least we’re just getting it close. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

The Orioles, who are well on their way to securing their first postseason berth since 2016, will be relying on the duo as they try to orchestrate a deep run through October. As the final month of the regular season unfolds, Baltimore will enjoy watching the progress, too.

“Grayson continues to get better. All of our young guys have improved this year,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s been fun to watch.”