I’m going to take a break this morning from my posts on ranking the AL East by position to focus on the status of the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff.
Signing Ubaldo Jimenez makes every single part of the Orioles pitching better. Let’s start with the rotation.
A look at the starters would indicate that Buck Showalter would likely slot them Chris Tillman, Jimenez, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and well, who knows. The fifth starter likely will be Bud Norris, but it also could be Suk-min Yoon, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, or Alfredo Aceves.
Norris is most likely, because he is a known commodity. However, I have been mentioning for months (tried to find my past discussion on it, but couldn’t) the fact that Norris could possibly become the Orioles closer. I still think this is a high possibility, moving him to either closer or set-up.
Darren O’Day, Matusz and Ryan Webb are all likely to be back of the pen pitchers, being used in the 7th and 8th innings. So if we say that Norris is the fifth starter, those three and Tommy Hunter are in the pen, which still leaves three spots.
One of those is guaranteed to Yoon. He is going to be on this team, whether as a starter or a reliever. My work colleague James Tully reminded me that Yoon was a closer for his Korean team last year.
Remember, Troy Patton is suspended for 25 games, so he is out of the running at least to start the season.
Zach Britton is out of options, as is Aceves, who is not on the 40 man roster, and Buck Showalter favorite Josh Stinson.
So who will fill the long relief roles? I expect it to be Britton and Aceves to start the year. What this means is that the signing of Jimenez significantly makes the entire Orioles pitching staff better. The starters aren’t on the same level as Tampa Bay, but the bullpen is in my opinion the best in the AL East.