SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles are looking for stronger pitching this year after last season’s rocky performance.
The starters last season combined for an ERA of 5.70.
Three starting pitchers from last year’s staff are gone: right-handers Jeremy Hellickson and Ubaldo Jimenez and left-hander Wade Miley. Remaining are right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman, who re-signed with the team Wednesday.
Joining Bundy, Gausman and Tillman in the rotation is another right-hander, Andrew Cashner, who signed Feb. 15. Who gets the fifth spot will be the most pressing question in spring training.
“We were looking for a couple of veteran starting pitchers, and with the signing of Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, there’s a couple of proven starters in the American League,” said Dan Duquette, the Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations.
The Orioles would like a left-hander to join the group, but they missed out on several free agents who have signed in the days since spring training began. The leading in-house candidate, is Rule 5 draft choice Nestor Cortes.
“We could use a left-handed starter so we’re going to look at Cortes to see if he’s an option,” Duquette said. “We like a lot of things that we’ve seen about him. Some of the other guys in camp, we’ll take a look at them too. But the arms are pretty good. If we come up with another pitcher out of the other arms that we invited into camp — that would be good.”
The other top candidates to challenge for a rotation spot are all right-handers.
Mike Wright, who will start Friday’s Grapefruit League opener against Tampa Bay, and Miguel Castro, who had just one start last season, but had success as a long reliever. Jose Mesa, another Rule 5 draft choice and son of the longtime big leaguer of the same name may also get consideration.
Manager Buck Showalter likes the additions the team made and believes that it can potentially be a credible rotation.
“I like the fact that Andrew has pitched in the American League before,” Showalter said. “It did weigh in his favor when we were talking about him and we were handicapping the guys available.
“You’re counting on young pitchers like Gausman and Dylan to continue to make an upward climb. I don’t see any reason why that can’t happen, and we all know what Chris is capable of, and that fifth spot is almost as exciting to me about the possibilities of what could happen there.”
Tillman, who was the team’s best starter from 2012-16 before falling to 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA, is optimistic.
“I think we’re as good as the starting pitcher is every night. We know what our defense is capable of. We know what our offense is capable of. You’ve just got to give them a chance as a starter. Our bullpen is the same way. You know what they’re going to bring to the table, and you got to get deep in the ballgame, and pitch well and give your team a chance to win and on this team I think that goes a real long way.”
(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)