Rodriguez conquers Twins' stars in solid start

Kremer preps for Classic; Watkins, Holliday excel in game action

March 7th, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- reported to Orioles camp this year eager to face big league competition. So when the 23-year-old right-hander found out he’d be facing some of the Twins’ best hitters at Hammond Stadium on Tuesday afternoon, he was ready for the test.

“It definitely gets me excited,” Rodriguez said. “Playing on the road, you get a chance to see their starters. And that’s kind of really what I was looking for coming into Spring Training.”

Rodriguez’s second Grapefruit League outing wasn’t quite as dominant as his first, but MLB Pipeline’s No. 7 overall prospect again showed why he’s on the cusp of making his big league debut. He struck out four over 2 2/3 solid innings and allowed only one run -- which came via a Jose Miranda leadoff homer in the second -- in Baltimore’s 7-6 loss.

The quartet of Minnesota batters Rodriguez punched out? Joey Gallo, Trevor Larnach, Michael A. Taylor and Carlos Correa.

“So far, they’re no different than anybody else I’ve played,” said Rodriguez, the O’s No. 2 prospect. “Obviously, walks will hurt you. Fastballs down the middle will get you, too. So I’m just attacking them like any other hitter.”

Rodriguez threw 55 pitches (35 strikes) and leaned heavily on his four-seam fastball (26 times) and changeup (18), inducing three whiffs apiece with each. His heater averaged 97.5 mph and touched 98.9, per Statcast. He felt his change was “a little off” early, but it improved as he continued to throw it.

In the first, Rodriguez retired Gallo, Correa and Max Kepler in order, opening the game by freezing Gallo with a 98.4 mph fastball for a called third strike. He later punched out Correa by getting the star shortstop to swing through a low 98 mph heater for the first out of the third.

There were some mistake pitches from Rodriguez, too. In addition to the homer to Miranda, he gave up a pair of doubles and issued two walks. He exited after walking Miranda to load the bases with two outs in the third.

Even if it wasn’t Rodriguez’s cleanest showing, manager Brandon Hyde was again impressed with the righty’s stuff.

“Big things ahead for him,” Hyde said. “Now, it’s just about really a little bit better command and working ahead in the count.”

Another notable moment in Rodriguez’s outing occurred moments after Miranda’s homer in the second. Donovan Solano hit a 96.4 mph comebacker to Rodriguez, whose glove was knocked off his left hand as he attempted to field the ball.

Rodriguez picked it up behind the mound and threw to first for the out, then his left hand was examined by a trainer. However, the ball only hit the palm of the glove, per Rodriguez, who was relieved.

“I was able to get leather on it, ultimately make the play,” Rodriguez said. “So just glad nothing is injured.”

Kremer throws one more time before Classic
Right-hander was in the Orioles’ clubhouse Tuesday morning, as the 27-year-old hadn’t yet left for Miami, where he’ll report to Team Israel for the World Baseball Classic later this week.

Hyde said the reason Kremer hadn’t yet departed was because the O’s wanted him to throw his final pre-Classic side session in front of their pitching coaches, as he’s also ramping up for the 2023 season.

“It always makes you nervous when you have a pitcher going,” Hyde said. “He’s scheduled for that [first Classic] start, and we just felt like it was important for him to get that last session with our pitching guys before he makes that start.”

More from the game
, who is among the pitchers in the O’s rotation competition, had another solid outing, tossing three innings of one-run ball in relief. That’s the only run the 30-year-old right-hander has allowed over five Grapefruit League frames.

“Felt good, felt like all my pitches were working,” Watkins said. “Of course, it’s Spring Training, so we’ll go back to the drawing board tomorrow and figure out what we’re working on next week. But yeah, everything felt pretty good and good to feel the tempo.”

, Baltimore’s No. 3 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 12 overall prospect, collected his first RBI of the spring. The 19-year-old shortstop plated Colton Cowser with a first-pitch, pinch-hit single the opposite way to left field in the seventh. Holliday also walked in the ninth.