Grayson Rodriguez makes Grapefruit League debut in Orioles' win; Wells picks up where he left off - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Spring Training

Grayson Rodriguez makes Grapefruit League debut in Orioles’ win; Wells picks up where he left off

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

SARASOTA, Florida-What’s happening? No. 1 starter John Means will make his first start of the spring when the Orioles face the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park at 1:05 p.m. on Tuesday. Dean Kremer, Tanner Scott, Félix Bautista, Logan Gillaspie and Jorge López are scheduled to follow.

José Quintana is scheduled to start for Pittsburgh. JT Brubaker, David Bednar, Hunter Stratton and Kyle Nicolas are also scheduled to pitch. The game will be available on MLB.TV.

Mark Trumbo, who played four seasons for the Orioles, is in camp as a guest instructor through Thursday.

“Mark’s got such a high baseball IQ,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s really fun to talk the game with. I’m really excited for our players to be able to mingle with him. Trey [Mancini] worked with him a lot this winter. There’s a ton of respect for Mark Trumbo … To see him out here in uniform is awesome for everybody.”

What’s happened?- Hyde decided to start Tyler Wells, who pitched two perfect innings in the Orioles’ 10-8 win over the Minnesota Twins before 3.754 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on Monday.

“We’re going to be careful with him this year,” Hyde said. “We’re not sure what role he’s going to be in this year. We’d like to see him stretch out in spring training and see how it goes.”

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Wells was a starter in Minnesota’s organization, had Tommy John surgery in 2019 and missed the 2020 season when the minor league season was canceled. He was a Rule 5 pick by the Orioles last season and was used as a closer late in the season.

“I would like to be a starter. I would like to be a bullpen guy,” Wells said. “I want to be used, and I want to help the team in big situations. That’s really my primary focus.”

Hyde was impressed by Wells’ development last year.

“He’s somebody that we really believe in and we’re going to be conservative with his innings total this year,” Hyde said.

In his first Grapefruit League outing, top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez pitched a perfect third but allowed four runs on three hits while recording two outs in the fourth.

“I thought it was just missing with a couple of pitches there that second inning,” Hyde said. “It led to a couple of walks, but I thought his stuff stayed really good throughout both innings. He had a great first inning, showed an electric fastball, a really good slider. Second inning, command was just a tick off. They got to a couple. I’m taking it as a positive, his first time out in major league camp. He’ll learn from it and continue to get better.”

Rodriguez had a group of more experienced teammates on the field, including his catcher, 37-year-old Robinson Chirinos.

“I grew up watching Robinson Chirinos,” Rodriguez said. “I’m from Texas, watching him with the Rangers. It’s a lot of fun to do that. You can learn a lot from him. It’s another day at the office, but it’s exciting.”

Keegan Akin exhausted his pitch limit in the fifth when he allowed a run on a hit and walked three. He recorded two outs.

The Orioles scored four runs in the first. Austin Hays’ two-run single was the big hit and minor league catcher Brett Cumberland added a two-run double in the seventh. Yusniel Diaz’s eighth-inning double broke an 8-8 tie.

Trey Mancini started in right field and played five innings. It was his first start in the outfield since the end of the 2019 season.

“This is one of the tougher ballparks to play outfield in,” Hyde said. “It’s a good test for all our outfielders. It’s almost windy every single day. The wind changes. It’s a high sky. It’s tough to read balls off the bat with the stands in the back. He’s excited to be out there. We’ll move him around from outfield to first base.”

The Orioles reassigned catcher Cody Roberts to minor league camp. They have 65 players in camp.

What’s up with Nick Vespi? Vespi, who pitched a spotless sixth, was drafted in the 18th round of the 2015 draft and is in his first major league camp.

“It’s a funky left-hander that’s got kind of a cutting fastball and a breaking  ball with it,” Hyde said. “He’s a tough at-bat because his fastball chases right-handers in and it’s a tough [for] lefties because it’s sweeping away. He’s a guy to continue to watch and see what we’ve got.”

The 26-year-old left-hander was a combined 4-3 with a 4.19 ERA and one save in 30 games for Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie. After going 3-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 16 games in the Arizona Fall League, Vespi was left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft, which was canceled because of the lockout.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Vespi said. “The opportunity is still there. I’m just going to continue to put in the work, and when my name’s called, it’s done.”

What’s what? Over the winter, the Orioles hired two hitting coaches, Ryan Fuller and Matt Borgschulte, neither of whom played in the major leagues. Several teams have added hitting coaches who haven’t played in the majors.

“I certainly noticed that that is what’s the going on,” Trumbo said. “I’ve asked some people around the game their opinion on why maybe a lot of the hires are non-traditional. I think it makes a lot of sense. If you think about it, it’s kind of how I experienced coming up as well. A lot of it was on the player to figure out. There was quality coaching, but it wasn’t to the extent that they’re going to really formulate plans for the individual player. This is probably a much better approach in a lot of ways.”

What’s the word? “I think the issue with an ex-player at times can be somewhat of an ego-driven thing and somewhat close-minded. I’ve always been open to just about anything that might make a difference and make it easier to understand the concept, however bulky it may appear on the surface. If it helps someone, it’s not invalid. I think if you want to coach in today’s world, you have to be far, far more open-minded.”­ Trumbo on hitting coaches without major league experience.

What’s the number? 11. The Orioles used 11 pitchers, including four from minor league camp, Morgan McSweeney, Buddy Baumann, Clayton McGinness and Diógenes Almengo, who replaced pitchers who exhausted their pitch counts. Rodriguez, Akin, Cole Sulser and Joey Krehbiel each needed help to close out their outings. 

What’s the record? 1-2-1. The Orioles will play the Pittsburgh Pirates at Bradenton at 1:05 p.m. on Tuesday.

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