Photo: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
It has been reported this week the former ace Johan Santana will extend his June 1st opt-out date and could be pitching for the Orioles somewhere around June 18th. That date is probably dependent on his performance, but if he thinks he can get a major league offer somewhere else after his new opt-out date he’ll leave. Because of that, the Orioles will probably be forced to give him a shot regardless. If he can break the rotation the Orioles will have a tough decision about who gets assigned to the bullpen.
There is no scenario in the near future where Chris Tillman or Ubaldo Jimenez could be out of the rotation, despite their early season inconsistences. Tillman is coming off an all-star year, and has had two consecutive solid seasons. He is also the only Orioles pitcher to pitch eight innings, something he has done three times. He’s going to get plenty of more chances.
Jimenez has probably been the most inconsistent Orioles pitcher this season. He has shown flashes of dominance, but over all he’s allowed more than three runs in six of his ten starts. Despite his ineffectiveness, there’s no way the Orioles can justify paying a middle-reliever 50 million dollars over the next four years. He’s going to be stuck in the rotation for a while. The Orioles just have to hope he figures it out.
Bud Norris’ three pitch arsenal could be more suited for the bullpen. He throws hard and a move to the bullpen might see a spike in velocity that could make him a potential set-up man. However, Norris has probably been the Orioles most reliable starter. He’s pitched at least five innings in all ten starts this season, and currently has the lowest ERA on the team. For a team that is struggling to find consistent starting pitching it just doesn’t make sense to replace your most dependable pitcher.
The obvious choices are Miguel Gonzalez or Wei-Yin Chen. Both are coming off back-to-back solid seasons and both have been relatively reliable as Orioles. However, their inability to go deep into games has been well documented. Chen has only pitched six innings four times in his ten starts. Gonzalez has pitched at least six in five of his starts but made it through seven only once. Neither has pitched into the eighth. The odd man out will most likely be Gonzalez, if only because he has experience pitching in the bullpen.
It’s true that the Orioles need starting pitching help. However, whether Johan Santana replaces Gonzalez or somebody else, is he even a better option than what they already have? The former Cy Young award winner’s fastball has been clocked around 87 in extended spring training games. That’s obviously not dominant stuff. Also, coming off shoulder surgery Santana will probably be on a strict pitch count. For those reasons he may be better suited for a long-relief role. However, with two Cy Youngs on his resume he’ll at least be given a shot at the rotation.