Grayson Rodriguez, the Orioles’ top prospect, has been diagnosed with lateral muscle strain, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias announced Thursday after Rodriguez underwent an MRI in Baltimore.
The exact severity of the strain has not yet been determined, nor has any timeline for Rodriguez’s recovery. The only certainty at this point is that Rodriguez will run out of time, a major hurdle as the 22-year-old prepares for imminent major league promotion.
“Safe to say he’s going to miss some time, and probably a decent time at the very least,” Elias said. “Certainly a very disappointing development in terms of the 2022 calendar and our hopes and his, but it’s something we will eventually overcome.”
Rodriguez left his Wednesday night start for Triple-A Norfolk after 5 2/3 innings with what the right-hander initially said he felt like a back cramp, an industry source with knowledge told The Baltimore Sun. directly from the situation. An additional source said Rodriguez felt dehydrated.
The Orioles announced after the game that Rodriguez had experienced “right-wing discomfort”, and the team flew Rodriguez to Baltimore Thursday morning for further testing. The MRI revealed the lat strain, although a source close to Rodriguez said doctors told him “it’s not as bad as it looks”.
The typical time frame for pitchers to recover from a lateral muscle strain is one month. Elias was unable to estimate a time frame for Rodriguez, who will likely meet with other doctors over the next few days to receive additional opinions.
Whether that rules out Rodriguez for the 2022 season remains to be seen. Elias said a trip to the team’s spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., for rehab is likely.
“It’s not something that I think looks particularly worrisome in the long run,” Elias said. “We had guys pulling muscle all the time. But it’s an unfortunate timing development for him and the Orioles.
Rodriguez went the first 5 2/3 innings for the Tides, but threw what appeared to be a fastball that registered on the stadium’s radar gun at 89 mph, a significant drop from his usual speed. Rodriguez’s fastball typically hovers in the mid-90s and can jump at 97 mph.
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The field attracted a visit from a coach, pitching coach Justin Ramsey and manager Buck Britton. After much argument, Rodriguez was called out of the game. He had allowed two hits and no runs with four strikeouts up to that point, continuing a great streak of games.
“I think a 22-year-old early in his career kind of puts any kind of calculation towards longer-term considerations rather than rushing it,” Elias said of a return to the mound.
Rodriguez, ranked No. 3 overall in the sport by Baseball America, won the International League Pitcher of the Week award on Monday for his stellar start last week, when he struck out 10 batters and allowed two hits. in seven scoreless innings, pitching a season-high 88 pitches.
A major league debut for Rodriguez appeared to be on the horizon ahead of Wednesday’s release. He had spent the previous month at an 85-pitch limit, but that limit was raised to 95 before he left last week. He didn’t hit it due to the efficiency of his release, but that was another sign that his build was going well.
Rodriguez needed to reach 100 shots in the minor leagues before receiving a promotion. He finished at 63 on Wednesday before the injury. Elias preached the need for a slow approach, saying earlier this year that the Orioles had to “be very careful with this kid’s workload, just because of who he is.”
A potential Orioles call-up could have happened as early as next week. Instead, Rodriguez will have to rebuild, delaying his majors debut.
“The moment it stinks,” Elias said. “We watched every beginning of his very carefully and carefully build him towards preparation, from a workload standpoint to a everything you can think of standpoint of what is going to be a very long and successful career of launcher. Obviously, this is going to be a delay.