Orioles starters believe Grayson Rodriguez will bounce back from his demotion. They’ve done it themselves.

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Kyle Gibson was first told the statistic a decade ago. He’s kept it in mind since.

After the Minnesota Twins optioned Gibson back to Triple-A after 10 mostly difficult starts to begin his major league career in 2013, his agent passed along a figure he hoped would offer comfort: Only 4% of major league players avoid going back to the minors after their first call-up.


That tidbit, paired with his own ability to return and have a lengthy career, gives Gibson confidence that top Orioles pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez’s return to Triple-A will prove to be a blip.

“Grayson, just like every one of these young guys, is a level-headed kid that has a work ethic that will undoubtedly bring him back up here whenever the time is right,” the 35-year-old right-hander said. “If he can make sure that he just keeps himself focused on what his goal is right now, he’s gonna be fine. There’s no doubt in my mind that Grayson Rodriguez is going to be a very good big league pitcher for a long time, and I’m sure it’s frustrating to him because he thought he was going to be up here and just cruise, and that time will come.”


When the Orioles optioned Rodriguez to Triple-A Norfolk after his 10 up-and-down outings left him with a 7.35 ERA, they pulled him from a rotation full of pitchers who also initially struggled before settling into the majors. Gibson’s 6.53 ERA came in the first of what’s become 11 major league seasons, as he overcame another demotion along the way. After a disastrous 2021, Dean Kremer has grown into a consistently reliable starter. Kyle Bradish had an ERA four runs lower on the other side of an injured list stint and rehabilitation assignment during last year’s rookie campaign.

“We really haven’t had any starter that has come up and dominated from the beginning,” Kremer said. “Basically, every guy that came up started with a 7 [ERA], and then the following year, or in the same year, got sent down and then kind of regrouped.”

When the Orioles optioned top prospect Grayson Rodriguez to Triple-A Norfolk after his 10 up-and-down outings, they pulled him from a rotation full of pitchers who also initially struggled before settling into the majors.

Rodriguez, a 23-year-old right-hander regarded as one of the sport’s top pitching prospects, blended good and bad with Baltimore. In five of his starts, he allowed two or fewer runs. In the other five, he surrendered at least four, with opponents striking for six or more runs off him in three of those.

In explaining the club’s decision to option Rodriguez without a clear replacement for him, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias pointed to Kremer and Bradish as examples of how time back in the minors can prove beneficial for a young pitcher.

“That’s par for the course in player development nowadays is you come up to the majors, you show flashes of your talent, but you maybe experience a little bit more failure than success right off the bat,” Elias said. “You go back down, get your confidence back, fix some things that you were working on. You come back up and you’re a different player, a better player, so we hope that’s the case from here.

“He’s gonna be back in the rotation. I’m hoping he’s in our rotation when we’re hopefully playing in October. We just want to get him right.”

In his first start back with Norfolk on Saturday, Rodriguez pitched six scoreless innings, allowing only one hit but issuing five walks. He emphasized his four-seam fastball, throwing it for 62 of his 94 pitches. Trouble commanding that pitch led to many of his struggles; major league batters hit .395 with a .750 slugging percentage off it.

Gibson, too, required a return to the minors to hone his fastball. In 2017, he had an 8.20 ERA through six starts, with the Twins pointing to his issues putting that pitch in the strike zone as the primary cause. In two Triple-A starts, he focused on attacking with his fastball and allowing his offspeed pitches to play off it.


“As a young guy, it can be a nice sigh of relief and a chance in a lower-pressure environment to work on the things that you need to work on to make yourself even better,” Gibson said. “I feel like the hardest thing being sent down is that you’re being sent down to an environment that you know your skill level is higher than and still understanding that, ‘This is what I need to work on regardless of the results.’

“I can sit here and sulk. I can sit here and pout. I’m sure Grayson’s not doing that.”

Orioles starting pitcher Kyle Gibson (48) talks to catcher Adley Rutschman during a game against the Guardians on May 30. “If he can make sure that he just keeps himself focused on what his goal is right now, he’s gonna be fine," Gibson, a 35-year-old veteran said of top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez.

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Kremer described his 2021 season as one in which he was “a little lost mechanically and mentally.” He had a 7.55 ERA in 13 starts, giving up a home run almost once every three innings while making only one major league appearance from July on. The 27-year-old said he had the chance to “regroup” heading into 2022, but after making Baltimore’s opening day roster as a reliever, he suffered a left oblique strain warming for his first outing. But that offered the opportunity for another reset.

“That also gave me a chance to kind of start from scratch, in a sense, and that definitely helped,” he said. “I went back to like, ‘OK, well, how did I get here? What made me successful? Why was that successful? What have I been doing differently?’”

Kremer returned as a member of the rotation, putting up a 3.23 ERA and pitching a shutout against the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros. After a troublesome April, he has a 2.55 ERA in his past six starts.

Called up last April, Bradish had a 7.38 ERA in his first 10 starts before going on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation. He used the stint to “reset my mind,” examining his previous outings and studying his mistakes. He took time to make mechanical adjustments, too, pitching exclusively out of the stretch and moving across the pitching rubber to the first-base side. Later integrating a sinker into his repertoire, Bradish, 26, had a 3.28 ERA over 13 turns in the rotation after a three-start rehab assignment, with a 4.13 mark this season.


“I felt like in a lot of those outings early on, if a runner was getting on with no outs, he was probably going to score,” Bradish said. “When I came back, it was a little different story.”

Having done it themselves, each has confidence in Rodriguez using his time back in the minors to prepare for his return to the majors.

“I think everybody knows that he’s gonna be probably the head of this rotation for a lot of years,” Bradish said. “Everybody knows how good he is and how good he can be.”