Deep depth. A popular phrase around the Baltimore Orioles right now.
Now quick, name two teams that consistently have set pitching staffs from one year to the next. Some minds may look at the Rays, the Red Sox, the Athletics and the Braves.
The only problem with that is that two of those teams have serious questions due to several injuries to pitchers. The Braves and A’s both have serious injury issues to more than one pitcher this spring.
The Orioles pitching staff, as currently made up, is largely set. Chris Tillman has been named the Opening Day starter, as many people expected.
The MLB veteran, Ubaldo Jimenez, is already slotted number two. After that, it is expected to be left-handed Wei-Yin Chen, then Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris.
But there are a few issues with that rotation. First, the Orioles would only have one left-hander in the rotation in Chen. But, there is another candidate who is a lefty. Zach Britton.
Britton is out of options. If he doesn’t make the team this year, he likely will be going elsewhere, as there is no way he makes it through waivers. The former third round draft pick is only 26, and was once considered one of the best of the young Oriole arms.
He is a power lefty, with a fastball that can reach into the mid-to-upper 90s and a good slider. Some, including Manager Buck Showalter, expect this to be the year Britton puts it all together.
So far this Spring Training, he has. 8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 SOs. That is a pretty good stat line. Now, the Orioles have been pitching Britton more for a reliever role than a starting role. And he has use as the long man as well, of course.
Following the current use pattern, Buck Showalter will have the luxury of having two left-handers in his bullpen, both guys who can be lefty specialists, like Brian Matusz can be at times or who can go multiple innings.
But if Britton makes it in the rotation, bumping Norris to the bullpen, I expect to see a different pitcher this year. And that kind of performance could help the Orioles maintain deep depth among their pitchers.
Since the beginning of the offseason, the refrain coming from this writer has been simple. It’s all about the pitching. In under two weeks, we will start to see how good that pitching is!