With Brain Matusz coming off the disabled list to make his 2011 debut on Wednesday, I thought I would talk a little about the Orioles rotation. Over the last few years there has been a lot of talk about the “Cavalry” and this is the first year the entire “Cavalry” is finally going to be pitching in Baltimore. Before this year, it has been talk based mostly on potential. Now the Orioles are finally going to see the results.
Zach Britton originally wasn’t even mentioned as a part of the cavalry, but now it seems he may be the best of the bunch. As a rookie, Britton has already become the Orioles best starter and there is no reason why he can’t get even better. Britton has stepped up and is already proving himself to be a number one starter. It seems like the Orioles have finally found their ace to replace Mike Mussina. Yes, it took a while.
Jeremy Guthrie is the veteran of the rotation, but he is still just 32 years old. I’m sure there will be a lot of talk about teams talking with the Orioles about trading for Guthrie, but the Orioles will need to be blown away to trade him. It is hard to find durable veteran pitchers such as Guthrie who consistently accumulate 30 plus starts and 200 innings a year. Besides 2009, Guthrie’s production has been remarkably consistent. Since joining Baltimore in 2007, Guthrie has pitched in at least 30 games every season. In addition, besides 2009, Guthrie has had a sub 4.00 ERA every season. Guthrie is again on pace this season to pitch 30 plus starts and have a sub 4 ERA. Guthrie isn’t an ace, but on a playoff caliber team, he would be a solid number three starter. Hypothetically of course, if the Orioles were in a playoff series, I would feel good about sending Guthrie out to the mound for a game three.
Jake Arrieta still has a lot to work on, like his command and pitching more efficiently. However, Arrieta has also been solid so far in his short career. While pitching in the treacherous AL East, Arrieta has shown a lot of poise pitching against some of baseballs best lineups. Arrieta already has 6 wins this season (leads the Orioles), has allowed just 53 hits in 61 innings and is striking out over 8 batters per 9 innings. His walks are still too high, but you generally have to deal with more walks when you have a strikeout pitcher such as Arrieta. In his young career Arrieta has 29 starts (which accounts for almost a seasons worth of starts). In those 29 starts, Arrieta has a 12-8 record with a 4.63 ERA. You have to think Arrieta will only improve with more experience and the potential is there for Arrieta to be a middle of the rotation starter. If he can cut down on his walks and pitch deeper into games Arrieta will be a mainstay in the Orioles rotation for years to come.
The wildcard in the Orioles rotation seems to be Brian Matusz. Obviously, Chris Tilllman and Brad Bergesen still are vying for a spot in the Orioles rotation and the team doesn’t know what to expect from either of them. However, with Britton looking like the Orioles ace and Guthrie hopefully becoming the Orioles number three starter (if they become playoff contenders), Matusz must become a number two starter for the Orioles. It probably is asking too much for Arrieta to be a number two starter (Arrieta would be a great number four starter). So, Matusz must live up to the billing of the 4th overall pick and become the Orioles number two starter. Matusz has yet to really put it all together over a full season, but he has shown signs of being a dominant major league starter. Last season, in 32 starts he sported a 4.30 ERA but had stretches where he looked like a top of the rotation starter. Matusz makes his first start of the 2011 season on Wednesday and the Orioles are hoping he can live up to his potential and form a dominating one two punch with Zach Britton atop the rotation for years to come.