Scott Garceau: Arms Race
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The Orioles will be contenders for the American League East title and the league’s two Wild Cards, there I said it!
Buck’s Birds can match any lineup in baseball 1 through 9 when it comes to thunder in the lumber and they’re coming off the best fielding percentage season in baseball history. That’s all good but in the end this team will seal it’s fate with starting pitching.
Adding Ubaldo Jimenez was a nice move, adding Suk Min Yoon, who knows? When it comes to starting pitching, at least on paper, the Orioles rank below the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays in the division. If that margin is narrow the bats and gloves and Buck Showalter’s leadership can make up for it. If the pitching gap is significant the Orioles will be watching the playoffs like the rest of us. Lets take a glance at how the rotation might look.
Chris Tillman- Coming off break out (16-7) year. Still only 25 he’s a very good #2 starter who could become the ace the Orioles haven’t had since Mike Mussina headed for Broadway.
Ubaldo Jimenez- He adds experience and durability. The former 19 game winner has averaged over 200 innings his last 6 seasons. Despite his inconsistency his career ERA is a solid 3.92.
Wei-Yin Chen- Likely the only lefty in the rotation. Durability issues, but the Orioles hope he can return to 2012 form when he won 12 games.
Miguel Gonzalez- Not spectacular but gritty and he knows how to pitch. He won 11 games last year and his 3.58 ERA the past 2 seasons is very respectable in the AL East.
Bud Norris- He won 10 games last season but the former Astros pitcher allowed too many base runners with a chunky 1.49 WHIP. His stuff is better than his numbers, he’ll need to be more consistent to keep his spot in the rotation.
It’s nearly impossible that a rotation stays intact for a 162 game season. Injuries and poor performance usually turn a rotation into at least an 8 or 9 man job. The Orioles are slowly adding arms and building pitching depth in the organization.
Other possibilities include, Kevin Gausman talented but raw, he’ll probably start the year in the minor leagues but could be on the mound at Camden Yards later this summer. Does Suk-Min Yoon win a starters job, go to the pen or polish his game in Triple A? Lefties Zach Britton (out of options), and T.J. McFarland could get a shot. Steve Johnson and Josh Stinson have experience and have made starts with the Orioles.
Prize prospect Dylan Bundy could be in the rotation in 2015 and may contribute in the second half this year. In the minor league pipe-line (“buy the bats, grow the arms”) prospects Eduardo Rodriguez, Hunter Harvey, Mike Wright and Tim Berry have major league dreams. Can the Orioles make it three straight winning seasons for the first time in 20 years? Can they make the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 years? The bats and gloves are willing if the arms cooperate.