At the beginning of the ‘08-’09 offseason, the Orioles rotation was difficult to look at.
For your viewing pleasure, here is what it was projected to be:
1) Jeremy Guthrie
2) Daniel Cabrera
3) Garrett Olson
Below them, it was a free-for-all trying to figure out who would take over as the fourth and fifth starters. In fact, I think I could have gone to an open tryout and made this rotation. It was that bad.
It made me want to cry as a fan, for I knew that it had no chance at succeeding, and it seemed as though my beloved Orioles were on pace to obtain their twelfth straight losing season.
The front office knew that something had to be done.
Moves had to be made; players had to be obtained.
In flies Andy MacPhail wearing a big “S” on his chest, for Superman was back to try to save the day once again. (MacPhail is the Orioles' President of Baseball Operations.)
He first dealt the lazy Ramon Hernandez to the Cincinnati Reds for three players (Ryan Freel, Justin Turner, and Brandon Waring).
He would later bring in Cesar Izturis, Chris Gomez, Ty Wiggington, Gregg Zaun, and Felix Pie. Let’s not focus on the hitting acquisitions, though, and instead focus on the great pitching strides made by MacPhail himself.
His next moves were bold, yet they helped to show the baseball community that the O’s weren’t going down without a fight.
MacPhail would hit the free-agent market, first targeting former Marlins’ pitcher Mark Hendrickson.
Though his career numbers haven’t been flashy, let alone solid, the one aspect that he brings to the table is stability. Now with him in the rotation, the O’s have a veteran to take up space and eat innings, something that was much needed.
This gives the Orioles the opportunity to sit back and wait for the young talent to arrive without taking incredible blows on the scoreboard.
The O’s would then branch out to the Pacific for the first time ever in 2009, as they added 34-year old Koji Uehara to a now two-man staff (Cabrera was picked up by Washington and Olson was still on the team at this time).
Now with Uehara pitching in Camden Yards, the O’s have someone in front of them that they have been dreaming of for a long time: their own control pitcher (I’m giddy just saying it).
After years of watching players fumble and fail on the mound, it became to the point where I categorized Oriole pitching with one word: “wild”.
It should be a blast watching Koji take the mound every fifth day as the No. 2 starter in Baltimore.
The next move surprised us all.
Out of the blue, MacPhail turned to a trade outlook, as he would send relief pitcher Randor Bierd to the Boston Red Sox for starter David Pauley. In 12.1 innings pitched in 2008, Pauley went 0-1 with an 11.68 ERA and eleven strikeouts. I realize that the numbers aren’t the prettiest you’ve seen; however, the potential in Pauley is there, and he is currently one of the favorites to win the number five slot in the rotation.
Our second-to-last move had all of our heart rates jumping, as MacPhail made a deal that could be “make or break” for the O’s organization.
He would aim to grab Cubs’ starter Rich Hill, a player whom Baltimore wished to have in Brian Roberts’ deal just a season before.
In 2007, Hill seemed as though he would be a stud. For 2008, many were questioning if he could ever return to his old form. Now with the Orioles, he returns to former minor-league coach Rick Kranitz (now the Orioles’ pitching coach) for aid and the shot at becoming the player he was destined to be.
Though Hill is wild, he has been described as having Cliff Lee-like talent, something that I don’t mind having on my team one bit.
The final MacPhail pickup didn’t jolt any excitement, but it did make sense.
John Parrish would join the Orioles for the second time in his career, as he now will attempt to make it as a starter. Last season in the minors, Parrish went 10-1 with a 2.97 ERA. Not bad for a former reliever.
For now, it seems as though Parrish will battle Pauley and the thousands of other O’s pitchers waiting in the wings for the number five spot.
What MacPhail has accomplished in one offseason’s work has ceased to amaze me. At the moment, the rotation is decent, not spectacular or horrifying. But hey, I’ll take decent over what we began with.
Now to the fun part. Below is what I believe that O’s rotation will look like:
1) Jeremy Guthrie 12-10 3.45 ERA
2) Koji Uehara 10-9 3.56 ERA
3) Mark Hendrickson 7-12 5.18 ERA
4) Rich Hill 8-8 4.59 ERA
5) John Parrish 9-7 4.15 ERA
Now, remember that these numbers will only apply if they get their season’s worth. The American League East will be a difficult task to say the least. In the end, we will find out exactly how smart Mr. MacPhail was.
For now, though, all we can do is wait.