The first four guys in the starting rotation are set with Millwood, Guthrie, Bergesen, and Matusz, which leaves one spot left. Last season Berken and Hernandez were in the rotation, but after their lackluster performance I doubt they will have a spot this season. Although I really like Berken, I don’t see him being anything more than an organizational depth player. Hernandez, did well last season holding guys on base will probably be moved to the pen unless he has a spectacular spring training. This leaves one sensible option for the 5th spot in the rotation, Chris Tillman.
Tillman will not be handed the spot as he will be competing against Troy Patton and Jake Arrieta. I like the upside of Arrieta, but I believe he will benefit from starting the year in Norfolk. Troy Patton will probably be Tillman’s biggest threat, which should become a good battle during spring training.
We acquired Lefty Troy Patton from the Tejada trade with Houston. He hasn’t broken into the majors yet with the Orioles, but he’s had two starts with Houston in 07. During them two starts he posted a 3.55 ERA in 12.2 IP, with a 0-2 record. I believe Patton could be a decent starting pitcher, although, I believe he is destine to become more of a facture in the bullpen. However, I would not be shocked if he broke the major league rotation out of spring training and goes-on to have a solid season with the O’s.
Out of all the players mentioned above, Chris Tillman has the highest upside. Tillman didn’t have the most success last season once he got called up in July, but it did show him a lot. He went started 12 games with the O’s last season and finished with a 5.40 ERA. With the emergence of Bergesen last season, we all set our standards a little high for Tillman when he got called up. We have to remember that Tillman is 3 years younger than Bergesen and is still learning how to pitch.
We do have a lot of young options for the 5th spot, but Tillman makes the most sense to me. He proved he can pitch in the minors, and once he got into August last season with the O’s after a lackluster September his pitching got a lot better. The best thing for Tillman with his age and prior success is to start the season in the majors and have Guthrie and Millwood to learn under.