Baltimore Orioles: Tough Decisions Ahead for Pitching Rotation


The Baltimore Orioles have always had a stiff competition going for the fifth spot in the rotation, but that competition has turned up a few notches recently.

It has been said the O’s have six pitchers battling for five spots in the rotation. However, I would venture as far as to say they have seven pitchers battling for five spots in the rotation. The seventh, and one you might not expect, is none other than Brian Matusz

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If you asked me a week ago who makes it, I would have said with confidence Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman. Now…not so fast.

The Birds have stretched out Matusz, a usual spring occurrence. Some think it is to showcase him for a trade, but Brian just recently turned 28 and is a left-hander. That is key because Chen is the only lefty starter on the team and is a free agent after this season. He has done really, really well.  With an ERA of 0.87, no walks, 10 strikeouts in 10.1 innings, and a WHIP of 0.67, Matusz has been good.

But, the real curveball has been the recent pitching of Ubaldo Jimenez. The Orioles have not seen the contract they gave Jimenez come to fruition. Yet. Over the past week, Ubaldo has had two great starts where he attacks, throws strikes, and doesn’t walk people. Sure his ERA this spring is high, but most of that is from his first two starts. He actually had to go to the bullpen today and throw more pitches!?!

A lot of the credit, at least according to Buck Showalter and Ubaldo himself, goes to Ramon Martinez for this. Ramon has been working with Jimenez to help him not think about his mechanics, and it seems to be working.

Meanwhile, Norris has had a tough spring. Some say he is just working on a few things, and I believe he will be fine.  But with all the competition, fine might not put him on the Opening Day roster in the rotation.

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With the off days at the beginning of the season, it is hard to keep pitchers in sync as it is, and there is clearly no room in the bullpen for more than one long man.

There is still room for Matusz in the bullpen, but only if the team doesn’t keep either of the Rule 5 players in Logan Verrett or Jason Garcia. I think at this point Garcia isn’t going to make the team, but Verrett has proven that he is likely worthy of getting a shot on the Orioles.

In the end, Tillman is a lock at the first slot in the rotation. Chen is likely second, since he is the only left-hander. I can’t see Gonzalez not being third, as he is as consistent and unflappable as possible.

After that, it is anyone’s guess. But I think right now it is Ubaldo and Gausman. That means the bullpen would have Norris as the long man, Brad Brach and Wesley Wright as the middle relievers, Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day as setup men, and Zach Britton as the closer.

That leaves Matusz, who I think could fill in all the way from long man to set up man. The O’s have a left-handed closer, but don’t have a left-handed set up man. Matusz could be used in this form, especially with Wright on the team.

Do you think there is a chance Norris isn’t in the rotation?

Next: Examining the Orioles Spring Training Records