ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Once Baltimore Orioles top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez got through a nervous first inning in his big league debut, he settled in and got a no-decision while going head-to-head against an ace.
“There were a lot of nerves that first inning. Really couldn’t feel the baseball,” Rodriguez said. “I kind of felt like I was on an island, but yeah, the second inning was pretty normal.”
After needing 30 pitches to get through the first inning Wednesday against the Texas Rangers, who got early back-to-back RBI hits to Adolis García and Josh Jung, Rodriguez retired 13 of the last 15 batters he faced. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out All-Star shortstop Corey Seager twice, including a 97-mph fastball on his last pitch in what was then a tie game.
“He got a little nervous there in the first inning, might not get out of it. He was just really excited, a little jumpy,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He just really did a great job of settling down. … Really, really good velocity and sort of landed more sliders, and mixed up his pitches extremely well after that first inning.”
Jung hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the sixth off reliever Austin Voth (0-1) and the Rangers won 5-2. Two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, who signed a $185 million, five-year contract with Texas after nine seasons with the New York Mets, got his first AL victory.
Rodriguez struck out five and walked one while allowing four hits over five innings. He threw 53 of his 83 pitches for strikes.
“A great first experience, and only get better from here,” Hyde said.
The Orioles called him up after Kyle Gibson, their scheduled starter for the finale, was moved up a day to pitch Tuesday in place of Tyler Wells, who ended up having to pitch in long relief Monday. Rodriguez was on the field before a game Tuesday with Triple-A Norfolk when he got pulled aside and told he was going to his home state to make big league debut.
“It happened quick,” he said. “The emotions are definitely high, but it was just kind of a whirlwind.”
These moments over everything 🧡 pic.twitter.com/AFdX6ofPAc
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) April 5, 2023
Rodriguez was the 11th overall pick by the Orioles in the 2018 draft out of Central Heights High School in Nacogdoches, Texas, which is about 175 miles from Globe Life Field. His parents were among family and friends, including some wearing Blue Devils shirts that represented the school, at his debut.
After a 7.04 ERA in five spring training starts for the Orioles, Rodriguez was optioned to the minor leagues to start the season. He allowed 14 runs (11 earned) over 10 2/3 innings in his final three Grapefruit League games. In the season opener for Norfolk on Friday, he gave up three runs (two earned) over four innings against Durham.
“It was disappointing, obviously having the goal to break with the big league team,” Rodriguez said. “But just going and getting consistent work, that’s kind of what it was all about. And you know, thankfully it was a pretty quick turnaround. So we were able to come out here and make a start.”
He has a 25-9 record and 2.49 ERA in 70 minor league games since his professional debut in 2018, with 421 strikeouts over 296 innings. He missed three months last season with a right lat strain.
Gibson threw seven innings in the Orioles’ 7-2 win on Tuesday, after his scheduled start was pushed up a day. Wells had been set to start that game, but threw five no-hit innings in relief Monday night after starter Kyle Bradish exited in the second inning of the series opener with a bruised right foot after getting struck by a liner. Bradish was put on the 15-day injured list.
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