TODAY: Elias provided reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski) with another update, saying Rodriguez has suffered a Grade 2 lat strain. As a result, Rodriguez isn’t expected to return until September at the earliest, and while “I definitely don’t want to rule out him pitching later this season if we think it’s the right thing to do,” Elias said there is a possibility the team might ultimately shut the righty down for the rest of 2022. Ultimately, the Orioles’ aim is to have Rodriguez on the Opening Day roster for 2023.
JUNE 2: Orioles pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez suffered a right lat strain during his start last night with Triple-A Norfolk, general manager Mike Elias announced to reporters (including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com and Dan Connolly of the Athletic). Elias declined to specify a timetable for his return to game action but ominously noted the 22-year-old “is going to miss a decent amount of time at minimum.” (Andy Kostka of the Baltimore Sun first reported the diagnosis before the team announcement).
It’s a disappointing development both for Rodriguez personally and the Baltimore fanbase. The 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Rodriguez has cemented himself as one of the sport’s most highly-regarded minor league arms. Baseball America just ranked the right-hander the sport’s #3 overall prospect and top pitching farmhand on its updated Top 100 list this morning. FanGraphs and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN each rated him as the league’s best minor league pitcher heading into the season.
Rodriguez has backed up that optimism with an incredible start to the year in Norfolk. Through 11 starts with the Tides, he’s worked 56 innings of 2.09 ERA ball. The Texas native has fanned an incredible 37.4% of batters faced at the minors’ top level against a meager 6.5% walk rate. He’s allowed fewer than three earned runs per nine innings at every stop in his pro career.
That utter domination of Triple-A hitters had seemed to put Rodriguez on the map for an imminent call-up. That’ll obviously be on hold while he’s out of action, and Elias declined to answer when asked if this injury could prevent Rodriguez from making his major league debut at any point in 2022 (Connolly link). In any event, whatever hope O’s fans had of potentially seeing the prized young hurler in Camden Yards over the next few weeks has been dashed.
It’s a disappointing setback, although Elias expressed confidence Rodriguez wouldn’t be hampered long-term by his recovery process. At 22-30, the O’s are likely ticketed for another last place finish in the AL East. The timing of Rodriguez’s debut won’t change the team’s fortunes this season, but he’d provide a jolt to the fanbase and get a development opportunity against big league hitters if he returns to health and gets on a big league mound at some point this season.