Orioles' Rodriguez on lessons of '23; Wells ready for bullpen or rotation - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ Rodriguez on lessons of ’23; Wells ready for bullpen or rotation

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan USA TODAY Sports

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In 2024, starting pitcher Grayson Rodriguez knows he’ll be on the Orioles’ roster when they begin the season.

“I think this is the part of the offseason when you get the itch,” Rodriguez said last week at the Birdland Caravan. “You just kind of think about spring training every day. Just ready to go. I’ve already started packing some bags. I’m ready.”

Pitchers and catchers don’t report for another two weeks, February 14th, but Rodriguez is eager to build on a challenging yet rewarding rookie season.

Though Rodriguez didn’t begin the season with the Orioles after a rocky spring training, he was recalled after starter Kyle Bradish was hit by a batted ball and suffered a bruised foot. Rodriguez made his debut on April 5th at Texas.

He was 2-2 with a 7.35 earned-run average in 10 starts before he was returned to Triple-A Norfolk in late May. Rodriguez returned after the All-Star break and was 5-2 with a 2.58 ERA in his final 13 starts.

“The first half was pretty difficult,” Rodriguez said. “The second half felt a lot more comfortable and being a lot more consistent is the main goal.”

In the second half, Rodriguez allowed just three home runs in 76 2/3 innings.

“Just attacking hitters a little bit better,” he said. “Being able to navigate the strike zone more, go after guys.”

Rodriguez is thoughtful and reflective about his 2023 season.

“I learned a lot,” he said. “I think there’s a whole list of things. Really kind of how to navigate the big leagues. Some big stadiums. Some big moments. A lot of big names that you face. Learning how to keep all that under control and go out there and still play nine innings.”

Rodriguez was part of a team that won 101 games and the American League East, but he said that won’t matter when spring training begins.

“Fresh start. It’s going out and building off of that, setting the goal at 102 wins this year,” he said. “That’s how we’re looking at it. Everybody’s ready to get it going, and to have a better year than we did last year.”

Rodriguez wants to assume the role of staff ace, though he was asked this a week before the team acquired former Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes, who’s expected to be at the top of the rotation.

“I think if you ask anybody on the staff that they’re going to say the same thing,” he said. “A lot of guys in this organization are very capable of doing that.

“The rotation is pretty solid. There’s a lot of guys in-house that I think we’re very confident in that to put out there and get through a season. There’s a lot of confidence in the guys we have right now.”

Rodriguez is looking forward to being with his teammates for at least eight months, and maybe more. He wants to use the Orioles’ disappointing playoff performance — a three-game sweep by Texas — as motivation.

“Had good success, but left a sour taste there at the end,” Rodriguez said. “I think everybody’s ready to make up for that, to attack the season. It’s a new year, go a little bit further in the playoffs. Hopefully, we’re in the World Series this year.”

Wells good with starting or relieving: When executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias was asked if Burnes’ addition meant Tyler Wells was going to the bullpen, he said the team needed starting depth.

Before Burnes’ arrival, Wells said that he was getting ready to pitch in whatever role the team needed.

“The whole offseason is just preparation for what could come,” Wells said at the Caravan’s event at Bowlero in Timonium last Saturday. “I’m not really too focused on what the role is right now. The body feels good. The arm feels good. We’re going into camp healthy, and that’s all that matters right now.”

Wells had an outstanding first half, going 7-4 with a 3.18 ERA, but after three difficult starts to begin the second half, the Orioles sent him to the minor leagues and didn’t bring him back until September.

“I just had a couple of bad starts,” Wells said about his second half. “I got out of whack. As a bigger guy [6 feet 8], it’s easier to fall out of whack and it’s a little harder to get back into that timing.

“You’re going to go through ups and downs. You’re going to go through peaks and valleys. You’re going to have some failure. You’re going to have some success. It’s all about, ‘how do I continue to approach that?’”

Wells pitched five hitless innings in four late-season games and allowed only one hit in three innings in the postseason.

“The results kind of spoke for themselves in that last leg, and I continued to try to take that into this offseason and push that into next season as well.

“I don’t think I ever deserve anything,” Wells said about his possible return to the starting rotation. “The best way I can put it is, ‘Where am I best suited to help the team win?’”

 

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