Rodriguez K's eight over five scoreless

June 27th, 2021

The Orioles are doing everything they can to prepare for what they hope is a fruitful Major League career. Challenging him, however, is becoming a problem even they can't figure out how to solve.

MLB's No. 19 overall prospect allowed two baserunners and struck out eight over five innings as Double-A Bowie blanked visiting New Hampshire, 10-0, on Saturday night to snap a seven-game losing streak.

Rodriguez continues to be incredibly efficient during his starts. The right-hander faced one over the minimum and needed only 61 pitches to complete his outing, the eighth in 10 starts he's surrendered one or fewer runs.

Baltimore's second-ranked prospect entered his fifth start with Bowie having allowed four runs over his last 9 2/3 innings spanning two appearances. That equaled the total over his previous five starts combined and was something he wasn't particularly happy with.

"My last two starts certainly weren't bad, but personally I was disappointed with myself," Rodriguez said. "I wanted to come out to tonight and get back to that dominant level I've been at so far this season. I was happy I could do that tonight."

However, Rodriguez was in top form from the start against New Hampshire. The 21-year-old needed just eight pitches to get through the first inning. He ended the opening frame with his first strikeout, beginning a stretch of five whiffs in seven batters.

"My changeup was the key tonight." Rodriguez said. "I was able to throw it for strikes or throw it in the dirt with two strikes to get them to chase. I commanded it to both right-handers and left-handers and got a lot of swings and misses. It was a difference maker for me out there."

Perfect through three, Rodriguez issued a walk and a single to begin the fourth, but a double play and his sixth strikeout got him out of the inning unscathed. The Houston-born hurler fanned a par in the fifth to secure his third scoreless start of the season and second in three starts. Rodriguez lowered his ERA with Bowie to 1.82 and his overall mark to 1.69.

"Again, being able to command all my offspeed pitches has been a big key for me this season," he said. "I wouldn't say [they] were bad in 2019, but I was not nearly as consistent with them as this year. There were times [in 2019] when I couldn't find the strike zone, but this year it feels like every start I've been able to throw them whenever and wherever I want to."

The 11th overall pick in the 2018 Draft entered 2021 with a 2.30 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 38 career appearances (37 starts). Terrific numbers to be sure, but they pale in comparison to what he's done this season. In addition to his minuscule ERA, Rodriguez has fashioned a 76-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio and an 0.75 WHIP in 48 innings. Opponents are batting .146 against him with two home runs.

His start to the season is reminiscent of two years ago, except for one significant difference.

"I pitched very well at the beginning of 2019, but the difference between Double-A and Low-A ... or even High-A is big. It's totally different animals. The hitters [in Double-A] are better and certainly more experienced. They go up there with a specific plan of attack and go after pitches they want to to hit. They're not just up there swinging at everything like a lot of hitters do in the lower levels. My job is to mess with that part of their game."