BOWIE, Maryland—The Bowie Baysox tried to make Grayson Rodriguez’s first home start an event, and they succeeded. The Baysox invited fans to bring empty gas cans to reflect Rodriguez’s fastball, and many did.
Rodriguez, whose first two starts for Bowie were on the road, nearly made it through five innings on Tuesday night, allowing two runs on four hits, throwing 83 pitches, striking out six and walking one as the Baysox lost to the Akron Rubberducks, 3-2, before 4,963 at Prince George’s Stadium.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander, who was the Orioles’ first-round pick and the 11th overall in 2018, started strongly, retiring his first six batters, and he touched 100-mph several times.
He allowed single runs in the third and fourth. In Rodriguez’s first two starts at Double-A, he allowed a run on six hits in 10 innings. Rodriguez began the season at High-A Aberdeen where he went 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA in five starts.
“It’s definitely been a great year,” Rodriguez said. “Started there in Aberdeen the first month. I was able to throw a lot of good ballgames there. I’m trying to keep it rolling at Bowie. The first two starts have been nice. This one was a little different.”
Akron’s Andruw Monasterio’s RBI double in the third and Chris Roller’s run-scoring single put Rodriguez behind, 2-0.
In the fifth, he struck out Monasterio and Josh Rolette before giving up a triple to Tyler Freeman. Manager Buck Britton removed him, and reliever Tyler Joyner retired Richie Palacios on a popup to short.
Rodriguez left to a warm ovation and appreciated the fans who brought gas cans.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “A lot of Orioles fans came out … It was a great showing. It was cool to see.”
Rodriguez didn’t take the loss because rightfielder Doran Turchin hit a two-run home run to tie it at 2 in the bottom of the fifth.
“It wasn’t up to standards for myself,” Rodriguez said. “I was a little disappointed tonight. Obviously, I could have done a better job of staying in the ballgame a little longer. Got into some deep counts and had a problem finishing guys off there. Definitely not what I had in mind.”
Before the game, Britton raved about his 21-year-old, who last week was elevated to the top pitching prospect in the minors by Baseball America.
“Somebody asked me to compare him with somebody I’ve seen coming up or I’ve played with, and you can’t,” Britton said. “The poise this kid has, the maturity this kid has. The stuff is electric. The competitor that he his is impressive. For him to be as young as he is and do the things that he does, it is a special right-handed arm coming here quick.”
Catcher Adley Rutschman, who was the No. 1 overall pick by the Orioles in 2019, caught Rodriguez briefly at Low-A Delmarva in September 2019.
“I think he’s matured a lot, both as a person and as a pitcher,” Rutschman said. “You can see it in the way he carries himself and in the few times he makes mistakes, the way he bounces back from that. He’s able to regroup himself and also the way he goes about learning and continually trying to get better. He’s just much more refined in his process and the way he goes about stuff. It’s fun. It’s cool to see him grow and become the person he is now.”
Rutschman was 0-for-3 and drew a walk.
Baysox pitching coach Justin Ramsey, who had Rodriguez with the Shorebirds in 2019, also has seen growth.
“Obviously, the stuff, when you watch him you know it’s really good,” Ramsey said. “There’s velocity, there’s breaking balls, there’s changups.
“It’s his work ethic. He shows up. He knows what he wants to do. He studies. He does everything you can ask for in a guy, and what’s most impressive is that he’s just a great person. You wouldn’t know that he’s a first-rounder. You wouldn’t know that he’s a top prospect. All the things that you want in that guy, they’re all positives.”
Rodriguez is two levels from his ultimate goal and knows Camden Yards is only about a half-hour away.
“Being close to Baltimore, obviously, that’s the goal. In a way, we’re close, but there’s still a lot of work left to do.”
Diaz rehabbing: Outfielder Yusniel Diaz, who has been out because of a hip injury, began his rehab assignment with Bowie by going 1-for-2 with a walk.
Britton said he was limiting Diaz to five innings in his first game as the designated hitter.
“He’s going to go out and play,” Britton said. “We told Diaz that he may be on a rehab per se. They’re going to evaluate where he’s at. I love having him. I love the kid. Hopefully, he can fit right in with what we have going on here and have a good week for us, and then see what happens.”
Britton, who managed Diaz with the Baysox in 2019, knows about his injury history.
“I just think he’s got to get on a routine where he’s doing things right every day,” Britton said. “He’s a very athletic kid. Injuries suck. Some guys are chronic. If we get [Diaz] to the right place, then he’s going to be OK.”