Spring training is basically like tryouts for a good percentage of the players in camp. Following a tremendous campaign in 2012, the Baltimore Orioles are trying to build on top of a solid foundation. During the season teams can have a max of 25 players on a major league roster. However there is an overall roster of 40 players to make room for those on the disabled list and minor league players.
Most pitching staffs have a five or six man rotation. Sometimes there is a spot starter brought up from AA or AAA to take the place momentarily of an injured pitcher. Last season the Orioles opening rotation consisted of Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter. Of the five original starters, Chen was the only one who pitched an entire season’s work load. Hunter and Matusz were sent down to the minor leagues and then returned in a bullpen role.
All five of those pitchers are still with Orioles, however the starting rotation is going to look a little different. Hammel and Chen will most likely be at the top of the rotation. After those two the rotation is up in the air. There are a few starters from the end of last season that filled in very well and proved their worth.
Miguel Gonzalez should get a spot in the rotation after the performances he logged late in 2012 after being called up in late May. Gonzalez went 9-4 in his first 18 starts as a major league starter. Another pitcher that deserves a spot in the rotation is Chris Tillman who may have figured it out in 2012.
Tillman finished his fourth season in the league with a 9-3 record, while cutting his career ERA in half with a 2012 season ERA of 2.93. His also lowered his WHIP by .60 to a respectable 1.05. Tillman has yet to pitch an entire season in the majors with a career high in starts currently set at 15. It is hard to believe Tillman got his start when he was just 20 years old and now with four years of experience under his belt, 2013 could easily be a breakout year for the right-handed hurler.
I believe the 5th and final spot in the rotation is a fight between three or four pitchers on the Orioles current spring training roster. Zach Britton is the front runner for now, however Steve Johnson and Jake Arrieta also have a legitimate chance to leave camp as a member of the starting five to start 2013.
My personal favorite to win a spot in the starting rotation is Jair Jurrjens. If healthy and his form is like it was a few years ago with the Atlanta Braves, then he would be an amazing asset for the O’s to utilize.
Lets be fair and say that prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman will not be with the Orioles major league team on opening day. However, Bundy will most likely be called up for a more extended period of time as he appeared in two games last season for the Orioles, facing just six batters. As for Gausman, he was just drafted this past year in 2012 June Amateur Draft and has only appeared in five games in the minor leagues.
I think it’s fair to say that this may be the best group of starters the Orioles have had to choose from since the days when Mike “Moose” Mussina and Scott Erickson took the mound.