Most baseball fans in and around Baltimore know of baseball’s top pitching prospect, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez.
They know the big righty is special and how much he means to the future of the Baltimore Orioles. Many fans have followed with a fervor, as they have waited for the mound at Camden Yards to hold Rodriguez’s presence.
This year was supposed to be the coming out party for the top prospect. Unfortunately, much like Adley Rutschman, fans had to wait, as Rodriguez, who was knocking on the door to the majors, would come up injured, slowing time down as to when he would make his debut.
The news struck fans hard, as we all waited for the worst when Rodriguez would leave a game with side discomfort in June. We held out breath anxiously waiting to hear the news, fearing the worst case scenario.
Rodriguez looked his dominant self in his start June 1. He had thrown 5.2 innings at just 63 pitches before coming out of the game with lat discomfort.
After a trip to Baltimore to meet with doctors, it was determined that Rodriguez had a right lat muscle strain and would miss significant time, possibly the rest of the 2022 season. The good news, there was no structural damage to his shoulder, labrum or the rotator cuff area, a silver lining on an otherwise dark cloud.
At the time, Rodriguez had pitched to a 2.09 ERA through 11 starts for Triple-A Norfolk. Coming into the game on June 1, Rodriguez had a 0.79 ERA and 47 strikeouts across his previous six starts.
The Tides had started stretching Rodriguez’s starts deeper into the game in preparation to make his big league debut. Of course, the one thing with special talents is their ability to take on set-backs with vigor and tenacity.
Over his career, Rodriguez has worked hard, prepared and readied himself, doing best to avoid the type of injuries that have major set-backs.
Not to say he is immune, but the cautious approach the Orioles have used, the work outs, eating properly and not forcing the natural order of things, have also benefitted Rodriguez in his growth.
August 3, marked a major step in the return of Rodriguez. It was on this day that he would begin a throwing program that gave hope that a return in 2022 was more possible than originally thought.
Throwing at 120 feet on flat ground without any discomfort, a plan could be devised that would see Rodriguez return to a mound before the conclusion of the season.
August 10, would see Rodriguez throw off a mound for the first time, which followed with Rodriguez facing live batters for the first time in months. He would pitch batting practice and a sim game August 24, after throwing four bullpen sessions.
Progress was moving quickly, but most importantly, Rodriguez felt great with each step.
The time had come for Rodriguez to take the next step in his recovery process, game action. September 1, exactly three months since his last outing, Rodriguez would take the mound for the Aberdeen IronBirds.
Rodriguez would pitch 1.1 innings, throwing 31 pitches. Though he would walk two and give up a hit, he struck out one and came out of the game feeling energized and, most importantly, healthy.
Rodriguez made his second rehab start September 6, for the Bowie Baysox. This time, he would get a little more work, building his arm back up to game action.
The 22-year-old righty would pitch two innings in his latest outing. It was a tale of two innings, as Rodriguez needed 11 pitches to work through the first inning.
In second inning, Rodriguez would need 29 pitches this time around, as he would walk two batters, allow a double and give up a run on a wild pitch. Of his 40 pitches, he threw 22 for strikes. Some rust should be expected after not pitching for three months.
After having such a long layoff, Rodriguez told reporters it’s the best his arm has felt since high school. That should scare quite a few hitters going forward, as Rodriguez said earlier this year was the best he had ever pitched.
Rodriguez is set to make another outing for Bowie, he expects Sunday. If things go forward as expected, Rodriguez could possibly find himself back in Norfolk September 16.
Of course, all of this is based on how Rodriguez feels and looks going forward. There is time left for a couple outings and an outside possibility of Rodriguez stepping on that mound in Baltimore.
His long term health, however, is more important than a rush to the majors for the Orioles. This is a process, one that, as anxious as we all can be, has to be done with the long-term health of the top pitching propsect.
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