We are one day away from Baltimore Orioles pitchers and catchers reporting to Sarasota and today we continue with our ten-part Spring Training preview with part three, the top four starters in the Orioles rotation.
This offseason has been a world of disappointment for Orioles' fans as the front office failed to fill any major holes on the roster and even created more, but tops on the list of disappointments has to be their lack of adding a veteran starting pitcher to a decent rotation.
Despite a selfie taken by Korean pitcher Suk-Min Yoon yesterday that tweeted out (click here to see the picture) with an Orioles hat on, the team has not yet confirmed any type of deal with Yoon, although it appears the Birds are the front runner.
There is little dispute that there are four spots taken in the starting rotation for the O's with Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Bud Norris. The battle will be for the fifth spot in the rotation, which we will touch on later today in part four, but right now we are focusing on the top four guys.
Tillman is the ace of the staff after an All Star season in 2013 where he posted a 16-7 record with a 3.71 ERA in 33 starts, over 200 innings and he became the first Oriole pitcher to win more than 15 games in a season in this century. He showed improvement in the second half of last season over his first half performance, which is promising that he could be becoming a legitimate ace for this staff. Tillman will look to avoid the recent Opening Day hex that has seemed to haunt Orioles pitchers as the past two Opening Day starters (Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel) have had a brutal season after coming off of a good season the year prior.
Chen will likely be the number two guy in the rotation for the simple fact of going righty-lefty-righty, and will look to remain healthy for the entire season after missing some time in 2013. Over the past two years, Chen has been the only mainstay for the entire season in both years and in 2013 he posted a 7-7 record with a 4.07 ERA in 23 starts. The big question mark will be whether or not Chen can improve his stamina and prove that he can be effective after the fifth inning as he would put together great starts through the first five innings last season, only to see him blow up in the sixth or later.
Gonzalez, which has been one of the biggest surprises of the Dan Duquette era here in Baltimore, will emerge as the number three starter and as we wrote (click here for article) about earlier this offseason, he is very under-appreciated. In 2013, Gonzalez posted a 11-8 record with a 3.78 ERA as he made 28 starts and 30 total appearances, while tossing 171 1/3 innings. Gonzo is a bulldog and is not afraid to pitch in the big game, let's remember that he is very good in Yankee Stadium.
2014 will be Norris' first full season here in Baltimore after being acquired last season at the trade deadline, and both he and the fans will be hoping for an improvement over 2013. Once he came to Baltimore he posted a 4-3 record with a 4.80 ERA in nine starts and 11 total appearances. Two of his three losses came in relief appearances in extra innings when the bullpen was taxed and Norris was forced to pitch on his work day between starts. Overall in 2013 with both Houston and Baltimore he went a combined 10-12 with a 4.18 ERA in 30 starts. He was not 100% healthy towards the end of last season and he is coming into 2014 completely healthy, and he will be one of the key guys to the team's success this season.
After the top four guys, the fifth spot is wide open, barring a free agent signing or trade for a starting pitcher and we will focus on that battle later today.
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