Through two full-season starts, Grayson Rodriguez doesn't pitch like someone less than a year removed from his high school graduation.The Orioles' fifth-ranked prospect posted his second consecutive 10-strikeout outing while delivering six one-hit innings with three walks in Class A Delmarva's 5-3 victory over Lakewood on Friday at Arthur W.
Through two full-season starts, Grayson Rodriguez doesn't pitch like someone less than a year removed from his high school graduation.
The Orioles' fifth-ranked prospect posted his second consecutive 10-strikeout outing while delivering six one-hit innings with three walks in Class A Delmarva's 5-3 victory over Lakewood on Friday at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.
"The way he moves and the poise he has on the mound, that's probably what's really impressed me the most," Shorebirds pitching coach Justin Ramsey said. "You're looking at the kid, he doesn't look like an immature high school kid that's in his first full season."
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South Atlantic League hitters have to agree with that assessment. The 19-year-old right-hander has been downright impressive in his first pair of starts this year: he allowed two hits and two walks on 74 pitches -- 46 strikes -- during his full-season debut on April 5.
The early success, coupled with how he's done it, sets him apart in Ramsey's eyes.
"It's extremely rare," the pitching coach said. "There's guys that are age 25 that don't have that kind of poise. It's just a credit to the work that he's done and the comfort that he has on the mound and the work that he's done during his developmental years. I'm sure that his parents had a lot to do with that. It's refreshing to see, because you don't see it like that anymore."
Facing the BlueClaws, Rodriguez (2-0) picked up where he left off a week ago. He struck out No. 4 Phillies prospectLuis Garcia and third-ranked Alec Bohm to start the game and came back from a four-pitch walk to Ben Pelletier by fanning Malvin Matos on three pitches to power through the first inning. He proceeded to punch out the side in the second.
"Whether it's his throwing program day or his side day, whatever he's trying to do, his intention to execute the pitch and get it on plate is what lends itself to that [success]," Ramsey said. "So he knows that when he goes out there for the start of the game, he's ready to attack, because he's already put the work in. Now [he's] just ready to go out there and reap the rewards of his preparation."
The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder worked himself into a jam by tossing eight straight balls to start the third. Ramsey trotted to the mound with encouragement for Rodriguez to return to challenging the hitters instead of aiming pitches.
"Not try to throw the ball to the spot, but throw the ball through the spot," Ramsey said.
Three contact outs got Rodriguez through the frame.
"Credit to the kid for knowing what he needs to do," his pitching coach said. "Obviously, it helps when you do get that negative contact and those positive results for yourself. ... To his credit, he made those pitches. He got back to doing what he was already doing."
Leading off the fourth, Matos singled on a popup to left, but the 2018 first-rounder whiffed Matt Kroon and coaxed a double-play grounder from Abrahan Gutierrez. Rodriguez retired the side in order in both the fifth and sixth to set down eight straight BlueClaws before his exit. He threw 50 of 77 pitches for strikes.
Young arms seldom advance past the fifth inning of an early-season start or reach the 70-plus pitch mark. But the former Texas A&M commit has done those things in both of his outings to begin 2019.
"The ability to go out there and throw the efficient five or six innings, that's what it really comes down to," Ramsey said. "We have an idea of a framework of pitch count that we're more concerned with, and if he can be efficient in the middle innings like he was tonight, that's what allows him to go back out there for that sixth inning and finish it."
Last year, he made nine appearances, including eight starts, in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and allowed three earned runs over 19 2/3 innings with 20 strikeouts.
Despite his youth, he commands a sophisticated arsenal that includes a 60-grade fastball capable of reaching 97-98 mph but normally hitting a few ticks lower, a plus slider, a curveball and a changeup.
"He's done a really good job of [mixing pitches]," Ramsey said. "And that's really our focus as an organization, which is developing weapons, and he's doing that.
"He's done a really good job with what we've asked, in terms of trying to get the fastball on plate, get the breaking balls over, the changeups, get the development of those feels. That's the main focus for him right now. Again, the kid's 19. You can't throw 47 things at him. So let's focus on getting our weapons on plate and going from there."
No. 14 Orioles prospect Adam Hall went 3-for-4 with a two-run double and a run scored. Cadyn Grenier, Baltimore's 17th-ranked prospect who was taken 26 picks after Rodriguez, and Robert Neustrom also recorded three hits apiece.
Chris Bumbaca is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca.