As the Orioles open their three-game series tonight against the Red Sox, all eyes will be on former O's pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, who will make his third career big-league start tonight -- against his old team.
Rodriguez was dealt to the Red Sox at last year's trade deadline in exchange for left-handed reliever Andrew Miller. Miller helped the Orioles down the stretch to win the division and advance within four wins of the World Series, but signed a four-year deal with the Yankees in the offseason and is currently a perfect 17-for-17 in save opportunities.
"It's one of those things," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We knew exactly what we were giving up for Andrew and we knew it was going to be really hard to sign Andrew. But we felt it was very fair to the fans, the players, the organization, everybody, to take a shot at it. We knew what we were giving up. … Everybody who had a hand in his development every time Andrew got us closer to the World Series should have been very proud. He's real good. We knew it. Unfortunately, we'll get to see it tonight."
The 22-year-old Rodriguez is 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA through two starts. He's allowed just five hits and one run over 14 2/3 innings, striking out 14 and walking four.
Asked if Showalter believed that Rodriguez, who was at Double-A Bowie when the Orioles traded him last July 31, would be in the majors this quickly, he said he thought it might be sooner.
"I thought it would happen a little quicker," Showalter said. "It would have with us, but they had so many commitments and other things. They know what they got."
Red Sox manager John Farrell isn't among those surprised that Rodriguez has had this much success to early in his big league career.
"I don't know that anyone is really surprised because when you get a sense of what his physical abilities are, when you're talking about a left-hander that's got good command on his fastball, he's got mid-90s (pitches) and he's got deception, that's a lot to start with in a positive way," Farrell said. "What he's shown is a poise that I think is pretty rare. It's a lot to stay within his delivery and not get emotionally wrapped up in the moment and he's been able to command the baseball. And I would expect that to be the case again tonight because of his athleticism.
"I would imagine him having adrenaline because it's his original organization, but because he is such a fluid athlete, I would still think he is going to command the baseball," Farrell said.
Many Orioles players do know him. He was in big league camp in 2013 and '14.
"He's got a great arm," catcher Matt Wieters said. "I caught him a lot in spring training and even though he was young when he was over here, he got a lot of time in big league spring training with us. He's got a great arm and he's a quality left-handed pitcher. That's not a guy that you would want to give up in order for us to get Andrew [Miller] last year, but we had to give up something. He's a guy who is going to be tough tonight. We're going to have to go out and battle and he's a kid who has a really good fastball so we're going to have to get on that."
Items of note:
-- The Orioles optioned left-handed reliever Cesar Cabral to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Nolan Reimold, who is starting in left field and batting sixth tonight.
-- Orioles minor league right-hander Virgilio Encarnacion, a 23-year-old currently pitching with the Orioles' Dominican Summer League team, was suspended 72 games for testing positive for a metabolite of Nandrolone.
Here are the starting lineups for both teams:
Manny Machado 3B
Delmon Young RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis DH
Nolan Reimold LF
Steve Pearce 1B
J.J. Hardy SS
Ryan Flaherty 2B
Miguel Gonzalez RHP
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Brock Holt RF
Hanley Ramirez LF
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Mookie Betts CF
Blake Swihart C
Eduardo Rodriguez LHP