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Orioles send Grayson Rodriguez back down to the minors

Rodriguez is optioned and Keegan Akin is back

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays
There’s been too much of this and not enough good pitching.
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Watching Grayson Rodriguez get shelled by an admittedly good Rangers lineup last night, I had to wonder how much longer the Orioles would let this go on. The team is actually trying to win games from the get-go this year and games given away when Rodriguez did not pitch well, plus the side effect damage short outings cause to the bullpen, are not as easily tolerated now.

We all got our answer on Saturday morning: The Orioles announced that Rodriguez is heading back to the minors. Keegan Akin has been recalled as the corresponding roster move. It’s likely that there will be another move in a few days, when Rodriguez’s turn in the rotation comes back around, to get a starting pitcher up for that spot.

Bruce Zimmermann pitched for Norfolk on Friday and is on the same turn. He’s already on the 40-man roster. These two things make him a convenient choice for a spot start or possibly even a re-audition of several starts to see if he can improve on his past big league results.

There is not much to say about this except that it’s been a disappointing beginning to the MLB career of a pitcher who was universally recognized as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball prior to last season. Some outlets put a little bit of brakes on their hype heading into this season, believing there was uncertainty about how Rodriguez’s arsenal had bounced back following the lat injury he suffered last June right when it seemed like he was on the cusp of a promotion to Baltimore.

Unfortunately, at the moment, it seems like the people who were sounding the warning bells appear to have had a better grip on the situation than those who were full speed ahead on the hype train. Whatever has been going on, in the aggregate, it has been no good. May has seen Rodriguez hurl clunkers against the Royals, Angels, and now Rangers, and the only time he’s had consecutive good starts was when he got to face the Tigers in back-to-back appearances.

The totals are ugly. Rodriguez has a 7.35 ERA after making ten starts. He’s allowed an almost unbelievable 13 home runs in 45.1 innings, home runs that seem to be the product of batters sitting and waiting for him to throw a strike when he is having difficulty commanding his pitches. He’s been very hittable in general, allowing nearly one hit per inning even if you subtract all of those home runs. The K/9 rate of 11.1 looks nice in a vacuum, but not when balanced against this other stuff.

It’s up to the Orioles development program and Rodriguez now to figure out what’s been going wrong and how to fix it. After his previous poor outing before this one, there were some articles in the O’s mainstream press about how Rodriguez had tweaked his delivery to be less likely to tip pitches when men were on base. That improvement lasted for all of one game. There is more going on, and it seems to be the command is the big issue.

I hope they can get it sorted out soon, because the Orioles of this year and the next few years after it could sure use a pitcher of the caliber that Rodriguez was believed by just about everyone to be headed into last season.