Can you smell it? Yes that is baseball in the air as the Baltimore Orioles pitchers and catchers officially report today for the start of Spring Training and fans are excited for the 2013 season to get going. In part one of our Spring Training preview, we will examine the pitching staff that will be competing for a spot in the starting rotation or bullpen for the Orioles.
First, although I provided the full list of Invitees and roster players attending Spring Training for the Orioles yesterday, here is the list of non-roster invites and 40-man roster pitchers that are in camp:
68 Zach Braddock LHP
75 Kevin Gausman RHP
27 Mark Hendrickson LHP
54 Daniel McCutchen RHP
84 Eduardo Rodriguez LHP
61 Adam Russell RHP
55 Daniel Schlereth LHP
85 Mike Wright RHP
Updated 40-man roster:
34 Jake Arrieta RHP
38 Luis Ayala RHP
65 Mike Belfiore LHP
53 Zach Britton LHP
49 Dylan Bundy RHP
16 Wei-Yin Chen LHP
64 Zach Clark RHP
50 Miguel Gonzalez RHP
46 Jason Hammel RHP
29 Tommy Hunter RHP
43 Jim Johnson RHP
52 Steve Johnson RHP
17 Brian Matusz LHP
66 T.J. McFarland LHP
56 Darren O'Day RHP
40 Troy Patton LHP
47 Pedro Strop RHP
30 Chris Tillman RHP
18 Tsuyoshi Wada LHP
?? Todd Redmond RHP
Plus, if the deal becomes official for Jair Jurrjens, he will be on the 40-man roster.
Now let's take a look at the two battles that Manager Buck Showalter will be keeping a keen eye on during Spring Training, the fifth spot in the starting rotation and the final three or four bullpen spots. Having said that, I am assuming a few things, first, in my opinion Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Chris Tillman get the first four spots in the starting rotation, second Buck will elect to have eight bullpen pitchers, and third, Jim Johnson, Darren O'Day, Luis Ayala, and Troy Patton are locks in the bullpen.
I can already hear some questions out there, "where is Pedro Strop?" "Why is Tillman guaranteed a spot?" and the answers to those two questions are simple, the way Strop struggled the past month or so of the season, I feel he has to earn his spot in the Orioles bullpen this Spring, and I can easily see a situation where Strop is getting lit up in the Spring and Buck decides not to put him in the bullpen, despite his strong performance the first half of last season. Second, the way Tillman pitched the latter part of last season was spectacular and he deserves a spot in the starting rotation at the beginning of the year.
In regards to that fifth spot in the rotation, the battle is really down to five guys (not counting Jair Jurrjens as he is not "officially" on the team yet): Steve Johnson, Brian Matusz, Todd Redmond, Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton. I find it hard to believe that Baltimore will allow Dylan Bundy to start the season with the Orioles in the starting rotation. I believe they will start him in Norfolk, and let him get some starts there under his belt before promoting him to Baltimore, but it will happen. In the end, I believe Britton gets the fifth spot in the rotation for a couple of reasons, first he is completely healthy this year as opposed to last year when he had no offseason or Spring Training to prepare for the season. Second he would be that second lefty in the rotation that Buck wants and lastly, I believe Matusz ends up in the bullpen due to his strong performance there last year and his inability to be consistent when in the rotation.
Now onto the bullpen, and you just saw that I believe Matusz will be there, so now we are down to three open spots, and as much as I believe he has to prove himself this spring, I also feel that Strop will be there, thus now down to just two spots. Towards the end of last season when the Orioles moved Tommy Hunter into the bullpen, they might have found the perfect scenario for Hunter. Tommy thrived out of the pen and showed just how good his fastball can be as he was hitting 100 MPH on a consistent basis because he knew he did not have to keep much in the tank because he wasn't going to be out there for more than an inning or two and when you can have someone come out of your bullpen throwing that kind of heat, you keep him there. Just like that there is now only one remaining spot in the bullpen open for battle between numerous candidates. Honestly, and obviously, the final spot in the bullpen will likely end up being a rotational spot between a number of guys due to performance and or injuries, but I could see a number of guys starting the year in Baltimore in that final bullpen spot, but I am going to give the nod to T.J. McFarland. The main reasoning behind that is that he is a Rule 5 draft pick, thus he must remain on the active 25-man roster, just like Ryan Flaherty last season. Here is the rule behind a Rule 5 draft pick:
If chosen in the Rule 5 draft, a player must be kept on the selecting team's 25-man major league roster for the entire season after the draft—he may not be optioned or designated to the minors. The selecting team may, at any time, waive the Rule 5 draftee. If a Rule 5 draftee clears waivers by not signing with a new MLB team, he must be offered back to the original team, effectively canceling the Rule 5 draft choice.
If McFarland does not perform well however, I can see Dan Duquette and Showalter waiving McFarland and inputting another arm into the bullpen.
Make no mistake about it, that I will undoubtedly be wrong on something in these predictions, but am confident that it could turn out this way. I will state though that there is no way Kevin Gausman or Bundy will start the year with Baltimore in the bullpen, like some fans have wanted, and that is because the Orioles know their futures are as starting pitchers and makes no sense to put them in the bullpen at the start of the season just to have them in Baltimore when they can start at AAA.
How do you think the pitching staff will shape up for the start of the 2013 season? Who will be in the starting rotation? Let your voice be heard by posting a comment!
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