His first full season as a pro has started to wind down, but Grayson Rodriguez seems to be ramping things up.
The second-ranked Orioles prospect recorded 10 strikeouts -- nine of them swinging -- over five hitless innings to set the pace in Class A Delmarva's 5-1 win over Kannapolis on Saturday night at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.
His fastball, according to Shorebirds pitching coach Justin Ramsey, touched 99 mph; it didn't dip below 95.
"We're talking about a first full season for a 19-year-old and actually having some of his best velocities coming in August. You don't see that," Ramsey said. "This is when people start to teeter off, and he's done a really good job with his work and his prep to allow himself to stay strong through this part of the season."
Video: Rodriguez dazzles with 10 Ks again
The outing lowered Rodriguez's ERA to 2.69. Subtract the July 20 outing in which he recorded only one out and surrendered six earned runs, and it drops to 2.03.
In the three starts since, Ramsey has seen the work he and Rodriguez (9-3) have put in start to click. They've tried to nail down the rhythm and timing of the right-hander's delivery to maximize the energy his arm speed generates. Faster pitches, but not a harder toss. Tighter breaking balls, but no overhauled mechanics. Just more efficient ones.
Saturday's showing, Ramsey said, was the best illustration yet of what it can look like.
"When he reached back for the little extra, it was command of the pitches," the pitching coach said. "It wasn't truly overthrowing to get there. It was a repeatable delivery that allowed him to put some pretty impressive velo on the pitches and put them where he wanted."
Gameday box score
Only twice in 81 pitches did MLB.com's No. 47 overall prospect miss his spot to the effect that it showed up in his line; leadoff walks drawn by Romy Gonzalez in the second and Lenyn Sosa in the fourth produced the only baserunners he allowed. Neither advanced.
Rodriguez punched out seven of the first 10 batters he faced and 10 of the 17 to come to the plate during his five frames. Over his last three starts, 24 of the 52 to face him have been retired on strikes, good for a 46.2 percent K-rate. His 32.8 percent clip entering the weekend ranked third among South Atlantic League hurlers to have thrown at least 50 innings this year. His 111 strikeouts slots ninth, but each pitcher ahead of him has thrown more innings.
2019 MiLB include
Every now and then, Ramsey has justified the dominance he's seen from Rodriguez with the fact that, well, "that's what a first-rounder is supposed to do." But he's also had to reconcile that truth with another -- the first-rounder's age.
"The poise and just the way he conducts himself and the way he goes about his work, you'd have no idea he's 19," Ramsey said. "He's doing some things that you would expect from a seasoned veteran in terms of how he goes about his work every day. It's special what he's doing."
Following Rodriguez's exit, Matthew Hammonds handled the next three frames for the Shorebirds. The southpaw gave up a run on three hits, two of which came in the eighth. Felix Bautista tossed a scoreless ninth.
Delmarva's offense came early. Orioles No. 22 prospect Zach Watson doubled in a run in the first, Seamus Curran homered in the second and 14th-ranked Adam Hall went deep in the third. Doran Turchin and Cody Roberts also contributed RBIs.