SARASOTA—A quiet Orioles spring training ended with some surprising news on Monday. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias wanted to keep the team’s No. 1 pitching prospect, Grayson Rodriguez, with the Orioles but his performance was too uneven.
Rodriguez goes to Triple-A Norfolk, where the Orioles also sent their No. 2 pitching prospect DL Hall, on Sunday.
Hall’s demotion wasn’t a surprise, but Rodriguez’s was.
“I think he needs to look like himself and get some longer outings,” Elias said. “[He] was not ready to jump right into a major league rotation, getting not past the fourth inning. We know what he’s capable of.
“I wasn’t expecting this, and we were hoping that he would show up as a better version of himself and I think we got here, and we just had five more guys that were more deserving at this point in time. I know what he’s capable of. I think he’s going to show it again really quickly, and as soon as he does, we’re going to be all over it.”
Elias reiterated that he views Rodriguez and Hall as starters.
“I do not want to relegate him to a bullpen role given the potential that he has, and what we’re going to need from him in the near future, and then also the long-term future,” he said. “This was the right move for the team in my estimation. Had any one of those five not surpassed him, he’s the next guy in there. That’s pretty much the case right now.”
Hall was sent down after pitching only twice. He had a late start because of a back injury, and he needs more innings at Norfolk because he hadn’t even completed three innings in his two games.
“I think he is, honestly, the best that he has looked since in being in major league camps,” Elias said. “It’s interesting because this wasn’t the hardest throwing velocity that he’s had, but the strikes, the tempo, the pitchability that we’ve seen—he looked great. He had some bad luck.
“He’s in a really good spot. He’s nowhere near built out … We need to get him stretched out. I do not want to make him a reliever right now. He’s too good and we want to build him back up as a starting pitcher.
“Look, if we’re in the position where the five guys we have now are throwing well and Grayson’s throwing well and DL’s throwing well and others in that group are throwing well, I think we’ll be very happy to sort that problem out. This is baseball. We’re expecting some injuries and some ups and downs. It can be a long year.”
Elias didn’t think the bullpen was the place to build Hall into a starter.
“It’s not a good option,” Elias said. “When you’re trying to win right out of the gates and we’re facing Boston and Texas right out of the gates, we maybe have some starters who maybe aren’t going to get into the seventh or eighth too easily because it’s the first couple of series of the year.
“The games are unpredictable. To throw a guy in the bullpen and just be able to say with certainty, you’re going to be able to throw him three innings, then four innings and have the appropriate rest, it affects the whole rest of the bullpen. It’s very unlikely it’s going to go to plan … The most important thing for him is to get built up as quickly and safely and as assuredly as possible.
“He came up last year. He had some moments. Numerically, he had some struggles. He didn’t beat these other five guys nor was he built out for it. We just like what he offers for the future and we’re going to work on that right now. He’s going to be a big part of this team this year and I think he’s going to help us win.”
Elias rejected the idea that the Orioles are manipulating the service time of Hall and Rodriguez to give them more seasons of club control.
“I really get frustrated with the topic, too,” Elias said. “We have five starting pitchers here, all of them [with] established major league success as starting pitchers. They had good camps, better camps than these guys.
“It really wasn’t tough to decide on that last rotation spot through the lens of ‘who did we want to help us win these games?’ At least the first five games of the season. We’ll take it from there after those games. Once you get past that, ‘OK, do we want to put these guys in the bullpen?’ The answer is no. We optioned them.
“Adley [Rutschman] got hurt last year [in spring training]. That was unfortunate. As soon as he was healthy, we brought him up. Gunnar Henderson, we brought him up … When guys are ready and the job is theirs, and there’s not better options, we bring them up to the major league team. We’ll continue to do that.
“This group’s working their butts off. We’re getting better. There’s a lot of competition, and to send some of these guys out, it’s very difficult, but it would also be wrong of us to send out somebody more accomplished, had a better spring, has earned it, is looking sharper because somebody was a high pick or something a couple of years ago. We’re out of that mode, and we’re going to go with the best guys and put ourselves in the best position to win these games.”
Grapefruit League season ends: Dean Kremer, who’s scheduled to start the second game of the season on Saturday at Boston, allowed five runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings in the Orioles’ final Grapefruit League game, an 8-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals before an announced crowd of 7,468 at Ed Smith Stadium on Monday.
Kremer allowed a three-run home run to his final batter, Jacob Buchberger, in the fifth. Nolan Gorman also homered.
Kremer ended the spring with a 4.72 ERA. He struck out seven and walked one, throwing 89 pitches.
“The line is what it is, but stuff-wise and how stuff was coming out and being able to command, I really like where my stuff is at going into the season,” Kremer said. “I might have gotten a little bit tired in that last inning. It’s pretty warm out there today. It’s not that warm in Boston. I feel like I’m ready.”
Kremer is excited about being the Orioles’ second starter to begin 2023.
“Just to be a part of the rotation is special for me and being looked at as a potential number two means a lot,” he said.
Kremer was replaced by Mike Baumann, who allowed a hit in 1 1/3 innings. Félix Bautista pitched a perfect seventh, striking out two.
Bautista, who didn’t appear in a game until March 14th, pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit, walking three and striking out 10 this spring.
The Orioles were held to four hits. Their only runs came on Anthony Santander’s first-inning RBI double and Ryan O’Hearn’s ninth-inning home run.
Chandler Redmond hit a three-run homer against Nolan Hoffman in the ninth.
The Orioles ended the Grapefruit League season with a 16-13-3 record.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB