The Orioles made their first cuts of the spring Thursday, sending five players to minor league camp, including two of the organization's most promising young pitchers.
The club sent out left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and right-hander Mike Wright, who are widely considered the Orioles' top pitching prospects behind Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
Also re-assigned to minor league camp were catcher Allan de San Miguel, who did not play in a Grapefruit League game for the Orioles because he was with the World Baseball Classic's Team Australia; catcher Luis Martinez, who didn't play in a game because of a left oblique strain; and left-hander Zach Braddock, who is recovering from shoulder surgery.
Rodriguez, the youngest player in camp at 19, is listed by Baseball America as the organization's fifth best prospect after going 5-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 22 starts for Low-A Delmarva.
"He wasn't here with a chance to make the club. When we looked at guys who could benefit from being here, he was one of them because of all the things we could expose him to," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I asked him, 'OK, why do you think you were here? What did you gain, what did you see?' And when he said, 'The best pitchers are the ones that work the hardest,' I said, 'OK, you are getting it.'"
Showalter said he had heard that Rodriguez needed to improve his routine, his professionalism and technical aspects like delivering the ball to the plate more quickly. He pitched in an intrasquad game and then threw one scoreless inning Wednesday against Team Spain, and Showalter said he was impressed with the young Venezuelan's improvement.
Showalter also purposely placed Rodriguez's locker in between Miguel Gonzalez's and Pedro Strop's, two Spanish speakers with strong work ethics. And he believes that helped make a difference, too.
"(I told him), 'You've got a chance to do a lot of great things for your family here if you stay on the approach that you are seeing these guys do," Showalter said. "That's the last thing he's got (to do) other than pitching and improving. I said, 'You are getting to a level where you are going to get challenged and the separator is going to be the things I am talking to you about.'"
The 23-year-old Wright made three appearances in the spring, posting a 5.14 ERA in three games, including allowing one run on three hits in two innings Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
"Impressive. Very similar stuff (to Rodriguez) except we just want to get him back on track," Showalter said of Wright, who had a 2.91 ERA in eight starts at High-A Frederick and a 4.91 ERA in 12 starts at Double-A Bowie. "He was a good-looking pitcher last year when he left (Sarasota). Still have some high hopes for him. We had some periods where he got out of whack last year. Good to see him finish on a high note today ."
The club's third round pick out of East Carolina University in 2011, Wright said he used his first full big league camp to learn from other players.
"I had a long conversation with Jim Johnson and "Big Smooth" Mark Hendrickson, had a lot of talks with him," said Wright, listed as the Orioles' eighth best prospect by Baseball America. "But really it was just learning by example, watching other guys, how they work, how they do it. Definitely taking in every bit of that."
Wright said he'll also remember his conversation with Showalter as he was told he was being reassigned.
"He said he likes what he saw," Wright said. "Just keep working hard and my dreams will come true."
Showalter said Martinez may return to big league camp once his oblique has healed.
"When they tell us he's ready to go and he's caught a little bit over there, we'll bring him back over for two or three good looks at him, four or five inning stints," Showalter said. "I really want to look at him. We've got some good reports on him, especially defensively."
The Orioles now have 56 players in camp, including 16 non-roster invitees.