Four potential guys pitchers who will start on April 6th vs. the Minnesota Twins:
Tommy Hunter: Coming over from the Texas Rangers, Tommy Hunter provided the Orioles with a combination of veteran capability and youth. In 2010, Hunters was a key contributor to a Rangers club that made it to the World Series. That season he went 13-4 in 22 starts. He also posted a career best 3.73 ERA. He lost his starting job in 2011 because of nagging injuries during Spring Training. Hunter found himself consistently on rehab stints and the DL during the 2011 season and only managed to pitch 15 innings without a single start in Texas. The Orioles hauled him and Chris Davis in for Koji Uehara at the trade deadline. With Baltimore, Hunter posted a 5.06 ERA in 11 starts. However, he progressed as he continued pitching. Hunter showed the ability to go deep into games and throw a lot of pitches without injury. Hunter made it a priority for himself to get in better shape by this years Spring Training. After dealing Guthrie, the Orioles will rely heavily on Hunter to pick up the slack and pitch many innings in 2012.
Jake Arrieta: Arrieta was a coveted top prospect for the Orioles. His 2011 season was a legit roller coaster ride. He went 10-8 however his starts were very inconsistent: some great, others awful. Arrieta’s main pitching concern was his pitch count. In 22 starts Arrieta averaged pitching 5.4 innings a game. His inability to go deep in games debilitated the bullpen. At the end of 2011 arm problems plagued Jake and he contemplated surgery and rehab. After meeting with specialist Dr. James Andrews, Arrieta decided on rehab. When asked about his arm this spring Arrieta said: “There’s no tightness, no soreness, no pain or discomfort.”
Brian Matusz: Coming off the worst season of his entire baseball career, Brian Matusz will look to prove all the critics wrong in 2012. In one season Matusz went from top prospect, future ace, potential all-star stud to a guy who may not even make the starting rotation. Matusz got injured early last year in Spring Training and never recovered. He went through rehab stints and returned with a below average fastball. The key is Matusz’s fastball because it sets hitters up for all of his other pitches especially his changeup. In some games Matusz would be throwing 87 MPH fastballs and 85 MPH changeups. Throughout his life Matusz has always been confident in his stuff but last season he didn’t have much “stuff.” Showalter kept throwing the young lefty out there to see how he would pitch without his top quality pitches. Experiment failed. This offseason Matusz has dedicated himself to working out and staying in shape in order to be back to where he was in 2010. The Orioles will need him to have his best stuff in 2012 and lead this group of pitchers.
Wei-Yin Chen: Quite possibly the Orioles biggest move in the offseason, Wei-Yin Chen brings interesting possibilities to the Baltimore. Chen is a hard throwing left hander who gets his fastball up to 92 MPH and has good movement on his off-speed pitches. The Orioles will look for Chen to eat up many innings and he may be relied on to be the Orioles top starter. Though rumors have circulated that he and Tsuyoshi Wada may start their MLB careers in the minor leagues, it doesn’t seem likely that the Orioles would be paying guys multimillion dollars to pitch in Triple A. Holding a career 2.48 ERA, Chen may be a diamond in the rough who the Orioles have for many years to come.
For the first time in a long time the Orioles do not have a clear starter for Opening Day. With the surprising trade of Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado it gives Baltimore one more rotation spot for a young guy. These four starters,Zach Britton and Jason Hammel have the best opportunity to earn the title of “Opening Day Starter.” If Matusz gets back to form with a low to mid 90’s fastball, he will be a tough guy to beat out on April 6th. However there has been one Opening Day starter already named for the Orioles. Alfredo Simon will start the first Spring Training game Monday against the Rays.
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