Baltimore Orioles: Thinking about the Starting Rotation


Oct 15, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez throws a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning in game four of the 2014 ALCS playoff baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

One of the inscrutable questions of the offseason has been the speculation surrounding the Baltimore Orioles’ starting rotation. What is to become of six players vying for five positions? And it will be five positions. There is no possibility of a six-man rotation, not even in some modified format. To do so would seem to work on paper, but it in fact it throws routines out of whack to the extent of being a net negative.

Even today on MASN’s Wall to Wall Baseball broadcast, former O’s pitcher and current analyst Dave Johnson gave the most common answer that has been heard as to what might eventuate. It is some version of “the situation will solve itself,” most likely in the form of an injury to one of the contestants.

There is reasonable thought and logic behind that sentiment. That the Orioles only used seven starters in 2014, and that one of them – T.J. McFarland – was only used once is a statistic almost unheard of in the modern game of baseball.

But what if all of the six contenders are playing and pitching at the same high level, or at least within a relative range of similar execution? How will it get sorted out? It is difficult to imagine that any of them should have to step back or play a bullpen role.

The starter most likely to struggle is, at the same time, the least likely candidate to have success out of the bullpen. And the two pitchers best suited to handle bullpen roles really should not have to be “punished” in this way, as they still have multiple years of service ahead with the Orioles.

The first time out in spring training for each of the six starters probably does not indicate much, as each is working on pitching elements without primary concern for results, along with little regard for scouting reports on minor leaguers, etc.  Their early results have been a mixed bag.

So much could happen; so much could change, but here are my anticipations as to what might be expected for this season … stated in general terms …

Chris Tillman – He is the ace of the staff, whether one likes to use that term or not. Take out his couple of bad performances, and his numbers are among the best in the league. He will be solid, if not spectacular again.

Wei-Yin Chen – In his final year before free agency, that fact along with his cumulative experiences and greater offseason training program will yield his best season so far. 

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Miguel Gonzalez – I look for him to have a terrific season. He worked out significantly over the offseason with Brady Anderson – probably the single best thing any player could do for enhanced performance. His skills as a true pitcher with accumulated experience, along with greater fitness, position him for a great season.

Kevin Gausman – His growth as a pitcher continues. It will be his best season, though subsequent years will yet be better. Gausman’s contributions could be critical to team success, particularly late in the year.

Bud Norris – It will be difficult to repeat the 2014 season. And though I love his competitive fire, I expect slippage from last year … not a disaster, but more in keeping with his previous performances. Yes, it is a final season before free agency, but still … just don’t expect awesome. But whatever he has to give will be given. Love that!

Ubaldo Jimenez – There is a reason his name is last of the six. As I’ve written quite a bit over the past couple weeks, I don’t think he gets it together. I just hope the collateral damage does not affect the other five above, nor others not mentioned in this article who are rising up the ranks.

All in all, there is every reason why the starting rotation should be a great strength of the 2015 Orioles.

Next: Rough start for O's spring training schedule