Monday morning brought Orioles fans a deal that many of them aren't too fond of - sending staff ace by default Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies for starting pitcher Jason Hammel and relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom.
Now with Guthrie gone, the O's have a very obvious hole in their rotation.
Granted, Guthrie has never been a true ace to begin with, but since 2007 he has been the best pitcher on the team. The O's knew what they were getting from him: 200 innings of solid, but not spectacular, pitching.
That presence provided piece of mind for the young starters on the squad who have been trying to fulfill their potential, and for the bullpen, who could almost guarantee themselves a day of rest every fifth day as Guthrie would consistently give the team at least six innings each time out.
In 2012, at least one young pitcher is going to have to step up his game and become the O's new ace, preferably a true ace.
In a perfect world, all four of the likes of Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman will turn the corner and become legitimate major-league pitchers, but more than likely, the O's will be lucky to get one or two of them to do that this year.
If the O's want to have any chance at respectability, this is the time for the young pitchers to become some of the best in the game. The potential is there. It always has been.
Heck, maybe dealing Guthrie will actually help these guys. Maybe they'll feel the pressure and perform because of it, much like they did during the last couple months of the 2010 season when manager Buck Showalter took over the helm. He came in with an attitude about how the players aren't to be given their roster spots, and treated those last couple of months as basically an extended tryout for the 2011 season.
Pressure can be one of the best motivators at times, as long as it's handled properly.
Arrieta, Britton, Matusz and Tillman need to handle it properly from here on out.
The future of the Orioles is pretty much entirely on their shoulders now, along with Taiwanese lefty Wei-Yin Chen. No more messing around. It's time to either get it done now, or give up and move on to other prospects.
With Guthrie gone, the youngsters are the center of attention.
It's time for them to be the pitchers they're supposed to be.
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