August 17, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) holds starting pitcher Tommy Hunter (29) during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Orioles: The Last Word on the Starting Rotation

How’s that title for arrogance? The “last word” … but is that the ultimate final last word? Or is it just the last word in a list of “lasts?”  Probably it’s the latter. But I think I actually am indeed the absolute last Orioles writer or blogger to weigh in on the rotation issue.

As some others have commented, you need to look no further than this conundrum facing the Orioles’ administration to know that there is a new day in Baltimore baseball. We have not seen riches like this in a long time.

Let’s cut through this logically and quickly with a few summary statements (assuming no trades of anyone now on the roster or major debilitating injuries):

1. There are four guys who will have to “pitch themselves out of a job” to not be one of the five starters: Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, and Miguel Gonzalez.

2. Anyone else who wants to be a starter will have to “pitch themselves into a job” to be a part of the top five.

3. If Joe Saunders is signed as a free agent, this article can end right here – there are your five guys.

4. It is clearly the strategy of Dan Duquette and the Orioles’ brass to keep every player they possibly can who shows signs of potentially helping the team, sooner or later. This philosophy will affect choices made as to who breaks camp with the team.

5. As a corollary to #4, the issue of options will also play into the puzzle, as will the issue of T.J. McFarland as a Rule 5 draftee.

6. The back of the bullpen is set with five players: Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day, Luis Ayala, Pedro Strop, and Troy Patton. This leaves two swing men / specialists.

Therefore, logically, the following applications would seem to necessarily follow:

A. Tommy Hunter is out of options. In a perfect world, he will be so awesome in Spring Training that he will win the 5th position. That seems too perfect to me, but he will be kept as one of the two swing men with that near 100 mph heater.

B. McFarland will likely pitch well enough to be kept as the other swing man, meaning that Brian Matusz will either have to be the 5th starter, a swing man if Hunter is a starter, or go to Norfolk. He is, however, the first guy to be included if one of the five back of the bullpen relievers falters or is injured.

C. Without Saunders signing, it is a multi-man race for one position between Hunter, Matusz, Steve Johnson, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, and Jair Jurrjens (with Wada going to extended spring).

D. Jurrjens, if 100% healthy again, is as good as anyone named in this article … but, like we often say about Orioles players, “that’s a big ‘if.’”

So, it is as simple as A,B,C,D.  There’s your last word! But think about this: It is possible that the Norfolk Tides rotation could be Britton, Matusz, Jurrjens, Johnson, and Arrieta!! And notice that the names Bundy, Gausman, Belfiore, and Clark did not come up until … well … just now.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles

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