Rodriguez looks like himself in first rehab outing for Aberdeen

September 2nd, 2022

Three months ago, the calendar flipped to June with an entire fan base optimistic that its top pitching prospect would dominate his way to the Majors before July. That June 1 start was ultimately Grayson Rodriguez’s last before he was shut down with a Grade 2 right lat strain.

Now, as September begins, the Orioles and their fans have renewed hope for a Baltimore debut in 2022. Rodriguez, the organization's second-ranked prospect, faced six batters and threw 31 pitches for High-A Aberdeen in his first rehab start on Thursday.

The results -- two walks against one strikeout and one hit allowed in 1 1/3 innings -- are of little importance so long as he comes out of the start feeling healthy and ready to continue his progression back to Triple-A Norfolk and perhaps the Majors before season’s end.

Rodriguez got ahead of his first batter, Rangers prospect Daniel Mateo, 0-2 before allowing a single, quickly forcing Rodriguez to pitch from the stretch. He recovered to strike out his next batter and received some help from backstop Ramon Rodriguez, who nailed Mateo attempting to steal second. Cristian Inoa grounded out to end the frame.

In the second, Rodriguez retired his first opponent but battled wavering control, issuing six consecutive balls and back-to-back walks. At that point, manager Roberto Mercado made the slow walk out to the mound, conversed with his pitcher for a few moments and ultimately took the ball, ending Rodriguez’s night.

The 22-year-old, who made five starts for the IronBirds at the beginning of last season before a swift promotion to Double-A Bowie, unofficially extended his pitch count with a bullpen session after he left the game. His highest total in an outing with the Tides this year was 88.

"At the beginning, there was a question of whether or not I would get to pitch again this year,” Rodriguez told reporters in Aberdeen on Tuesday. “That was kind of tough, having that hanging over your head. Being back and knowing I’m probably going to get the last month, it’s huge.”

Whether the month ahead includes his Major League debut has yet to be determined (and likely won’t until it becomes clear where Rodriguez is at in his recovery following at least another rehab start or two), but the Orioles have not shied away from exposing their bright young core to The Show.

, MLB’s No. 2 overall prospect entering the season, was called up to the Majors in May and has excelled following an adjustment period. , baseball’s second-ranked prospect following a midseason update, homered in his debut on Thursday. Less heralded yet still enticing young players like , and left-hander  have earned promotions as well.

Rodriguez undoubtedly would have been among them had it not been for the injury, but his mere appearance on a game mound in September beats even the most optimistic of his initial prognoses. There isn’t a necessity to expedite his rehab to get him to the Majors before the end of the season, but with the Orioles teetering on an American League Wild Card spot, Camden Yards would certainly cherish a look at its potential future ace to help the team over the final weeks.