How does the rotation shape up for the Baltimore Orioles?


Without being able to go into the future, I would submit that one of the bigger storylines in spring training this year will be how the Baltimore Orioles shape their 2015 starting rotation. If you think back five or six years, it’s amazing that we would even be talking about this in the context that we are. Let’s look back to 2009 for example; as you may or may not recall, the likes of Jeremy Guthrie, Mark Hendrickson, Adam Eaton, Rich Hill, and David Hernandez made up the starting rotation to start the season. That’s a far cry from the group the O’s expect to have this year.

I think it goes without saying that Chris Tillman is the opening day starter. Beyond that, I would look for the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, and Wei-Yin Chen to round out the rotation. That’s my personal opinion, and bear in that that aside from Tillman they’re in no particular order. I’m just merely stating my view on who’s in the rotation.

You’ll notice that Kevin Gausman is missing from that group, and I’m sure that some of you are screaming in seeing Jimenez’s name in there instead. First off, there are many well-respected pundits out there who think Jimenez might have a bounce-back type of season. However let me only be the latest to remind folks that the Orioles owe Jimenez for three more seasons on a $50 million contract. In football of course a player can just be cut without any sort of second thought (he still counts agains the salary cap, however). But MLB contracts are guaranteed, which means that the Orioles have to find a way to keep Jimenez.

Obviously there’s a chance that Jimenez could be sent back to the bullpen as he was in the second half of 2014. And also bear in mind that he was strong out of the pen for the most part. So if he struggles in spring training, he might very well find himself out there, which would open the door for Gausman in a sense.

But again barring any sort of weird occurance in spring traning, I don’t see Buck Showalter not going with Chen, Gonzalez, and Norris in the rotation as well. All three of them were bulldogs last year, and I suspect that it would take one heck of a poor performance in Florida for them to play themselves out of the rotation. And for the record, while teams often say that spring training is an open competition, odds are it really isn’t. There are always guys for whom a spot is pre-destined, unless they play themselves out of the job in spring training games.

Photo: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

And that brings us back to Tillman. I would submit that there’s no pitcher in the organization to whom Buck Showalter feels more comfortable giving the ball. Tillman’s had a decent fastball since he came up with the O’s in 2009. But what’s really turned him into a keeper is his development of off speed pitches. He seems to know exactly when to mix in a change up or a curve ball, and when he does they’re usually deadly. While it’s true that if you can’t throw a big league fastball you won’t make it in the majors, it’s also worth saying that if you don’t know when not to throw that big league fastball you won’t make it either.

Here’s the best part of the Orioles’ presumptive rotation this year: there’s very little anxiety about it (perhaps with the exception of Jimenez). For the past couple of seasons we’ve heard whispers about they’ll be good if Tillman continues to pitch like he did last year, or hopefully Miguel Gonzalez doesn’t finally get hit with the fact that he’s in the big leagues. These guys have now proven that they can consistently take the ball on any given day and put the O’s in a position to win games. Needless to say if you like pitching, Birdland should be a fun place to be in 2015.