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As Means and Bradish return, Orioles place Rodriguez on IL with shoulder inflammation

BALTIMORE — Just as the Orioles are welcoming back Kyle Bradish and John Means to their starting rotation, No. 2 starter Grayson Rodriguez has been placed on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation.

Manager Brandon Hyde said Rodriguez “was sore a little more than normal after his start” against the New York Yankees on Monday night, but he was “not sure yet at this point” whether tests had revealed any structural concerns with his pitching shoulder. The 24-year-old tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the win against the Yankees in the opener of the four-game set, but he frequently worked from behind — throwing first-pitch strikes to just 11 of the 25 batters he faced — and recorded a season-low eight swinging strikes on a season-high 101 pitches. His average fastball velocity was 96.2 miles per hour, which was in line with his season average of 96.4 entering Monday’s game.

“I’m staying optimistic. We’re definitely doing this to be precautionary, but he woke up after the start the next morning with some right shoulder soreness,” Hyde said. “He had some tests yesterday; he’s getting some tests now in the next couple days. We just wanted to give him at least a couple weeks off to let everything kind of calm down. He’s a big part of our rotation. We need him this year, and we’re just giving him some time off.”

(Brandon Hyde talks Grayson Rodriguez injury and other topics as Orioles prepare for Game 3 of Yankees series.)

Needless to say, losing Rodriguez — who was widely regarded as the best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball prior to making his major league debut last year — for an extended period of time would be a tough blow to a club excited to welcome back Bradish and Means in the coming days. In six starts this season, Rodriguez is 4-1 with a 3.71 ERA and has struck out 37 and walked 14 over 34 innings, continuing momentum from his strong second half last year when he pitched to a 2.58 ERA over his last 13 starts covering 76 2/3 innings.

The Orioles activated Means from the IL to take Rodriguez’s place on the 26-man roster because the 31-year-old lefty’s minor-league rehab assignment with Triple-A Norfolk had expired. Though he surrendered 18 earned runs over his first five rehab starts covering 11 2/3 innings, Means was excellent in his final outing with the Tides this past Sunday, pitching seven innings of one-hit ball and striking out eight while walking one.

“I felt really good. I felt healthy, which is the main thing,” Means said. “The last outing really clicked, so I’m ready to go.”

Prior to Wednesday’s game, Hyde wouldn’t announce his starter for Thursday’s series finale against the Yankees or his rotation plans for the weekend series in Cincinnati, but Bradish made his final rehab start at Norfolk last Friday, meaning he’s had a little more than regular rest to potentially make his season debut against New York. Bradish was diagnosed with a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in the weeks leading up to the start of spring training, but he progressed well through his throwing progression and pitched to a 3.97 ERA in his three rehab starts covering 11 1/3 innings.

While Rodriguez’s absence opens one spot, it remains to be seen how Hyde will proceed with Means and Bradish rejoining the rotation. With lefty Cole Irvin having pitched 13 2/3 scoreless innings over his last two starts, the Orioles may elect to move right-hander Albert Suarez — who is out of minor-league options — to a bullpen role to open the other rotation spot.

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