The starting rotation for the Baltimore Orioles in 2012 seemed to have a revolving door. The O's had 12 different starters, with only Wei-Yin Chen starting more than 20 games.
While starting pitching was a weakness for the O's for a good portion of the season, it was possibly their most unheralded strength from August onward.
As reported by Roch Kubatko of MASN, Orioles' GM Dan Duquette is content with the team's depth of pitching. Because of that late season success and the Orioles inactivity this off-season, the Orioles 2013 rotation will likely feature familiar names.
That being said, the Orioles still have plenty of options. A trade could also give them more options, as well as a free agent signing, namely AL Wild Card hero Joe Saunders. But, let's examine all of those options that are currently under contract.
The "ace" for the Orioles going into 2013 will more than likely be Jason Hammel.
Despite being limited to only 20 starts in 2012 due to a nagging right knee injury, the 30-year-old sinker-baller had a very nice season in his first year with the O's. An 8-6 record doesn't seem wonderful, but Hammel did have a career best 3.43 ERA. The Orioles also had 13-7 record in the 20 games he started.
Hammel is one of the two "sure-things" to make the rotation next year. Hopefully, his knee problems are behind him.
Chances to make the rotation (barring injury): 100%
The other starter that will surely be in the rotation is Taiwanese lefty, Wei-Yin Chen.
The free-agent signing from the Japanese league was impressive in his first season in the majors, and he even received a couple of AL Rookie of the Year votes.
Chen went 12-11 with a 4.03 ERA in 2012. Those numbers don't seem great, but the 27-year-old seemed to tire late in the season, as he went 0-4 in his last seven regular season starts. That was likely due to pitching on four days rest as opposed to the five days rest he was accustomed to in Japan. The difference led to Chen setting a career high in starts (32) and innings pitched (192.2).
To counteract this, Chen may have a few starts skipped or the O's may use a spot starter next year. Either way, Chen will be in the O's rotation.
After three years and three unsuccessful call-ups, many Orioles fans wondered if Chris Tillman would ever live up to the hype he received when he was sent to the O's as part of Erik Bedard's trade to Seattle. He lived up to that hype in 2012.
Powered by his exceptional fastball, in 15 starts, Tillman went 9-3 with an outstanding 2.93 ERA last year.
Only 24, Tillman has fantastic stuff. If he can stay healthy, he could easily become a top-of-the-rotation starter and will be given that opportunity in 2013.
Dan Duquette may have found a diamond in the rough when it comes to Miguel Gonzalez.
After being let go by the Red Sox, the O's signed Gonzalez to a minor-league contract shortly before the start of last season. Due to injuries, ineffectiveness and his solid performance in Triple-A, Gonzalez was called-up to the Orioles in early July.
The 28-year-old rookie never looked back. In 18 appearances, including 15 starts, Gonzalez went 9-4 with a very respectable 3.25 ERA. He also pitched terrific in the dreaded Game Three of the ALDS, going seven innings and only allowing one run on five hits.
Gonzalez earned his job and should be given the opportunity to start in 2013.
If Zach Britton can find the magic he had in the beginning of 2011, he will make the rotation.
Due to injuries, Britton's shortened season started in Triple-A. When he was called-up mid-July, his performances were sporadic. The soon-to-be 25-year-old finished 2012 with a 5-3 record and a 5.07 ERA in 12 appearances and 11 starts.
He's got a good sinker and does a good job of keeping the ball in the ballpark. Out of all the young pitchers the Orioles have, Britton may have the best shot at making the rotation.
Another one of the Orioles' young arms, Steve Johnson looked fantastic in his first taste of the majors.
Originally acquired in 2009 as part of the George Sherrill trade to the Dodgers, Johnson finally got the call to the majors in July of last year. In 12 appearances Johnson went 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA. In four starts, he went 3-0.
Despite these numbers, the 25-year-old is still a dark-horse candidate to make the rotation. Chances are he will start the season in the bullpen and will eventually be given an opportunity to start later in the season.
Brian Matusz could only improve after his horrid 2011 season. While he did improve as a starter in 2012, he was still mediocre. After being demoted to Triple-A and being recalled as a reliever, the lefty was dominant.
As a starter last season, Matusz went 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA. As a reliever, including the playoffs, he went 18 innings, only giving up three runs on seven hits. Simply put, Matusz was bad as a starter and amazing as a reliever.
The 25-year-old will enter 2013 as a starter and be given an opportunity to make the rotation. Hopefully, the bullpen version of Brian Matusz is here to stay.
Last season's Opening Day starter has an uphill battle to make the rotation in 2013.
After pitching well in that Opening Day start, Arrieta was all downhill from there. The 26-year-old did have one other fantastic start against the Yankees on national television, but a 3-9 record with 6.00-plus ERA was enough to get him demoted to Triple-A. Arrieta was later recalled and used as a mop-up long reliever.
Oddly enough, Arrieta's numbers, other than ERA, improved in 2012 from 2011. His control vastly improved, he increased his strikeout tally and he allowed less homers. It just happened to be every time a runner got on base, they seemed to score.
Arrieta will likely either start in the bullpen or in Triple-A in 2013. But a good performance in Triple-A, or perhaps some injuries, may get him into the rotation.
Tommy Hunter was similar to Brian Matusz last year. He struggled as a starter and was solid as a reliever.
Unlike Matusz, however, Hunter pitched long relief and was not dominate. He pitched well out of the 'pen, but a 3.71 ERA isn't necessarily spectacular. That being said, it was much better than his 5.71 ERA as a starter.
At 26, Hunter is still young and he does have an outside shot at making the rotation. But he'll most likely pitch out of the bullpen, with a couple of spot starts here-and-there.
The 23-year-old sinker-baller will have to earn his roster spot. He's never pitched in the majors and got to Triple-A for the first time last year, where he struggled a bit compared to his 2012 Double-A performance.
Odds are, McFarland doesn't make the rotation, and he also isn't all that likely to make the team as a long reliever. But who knows, maybe he'll catch Buck Showalter's eye and become a factor for the O's.
Due to Tommy John surgery, last year's signing out of Japan didn't pitch at all. In all likelihood, he won't be ready by the start of the season, but Buck Showalter did state that Wada is ahead of schedule.
Still, O's fans don't know that much about the 31-year-old lefty. And until he actually pitches, no one is really sure how effective he'll be in the MLB.
The top-prospect for the O's got a surprise call-up late last season. He only pitched 1.2 innings, but Dylan Bundy looked solid, only allowing a hit and a walk.
The future looks bright for the 20-year-old and he could easily become the O's ace. However, he's unlikely to make the team out of spring training, even if he pitches fantastic.
The O's plan for Bundy will be to start him in Bundy in Double-A, eventually promote him to Triple-A and perhaps at some point in 2013, call him up for good.
Starting Rotation Projection:
1. Jason Hammel
2. Wei-Yin Chen
3. Miguel Gonzalez
4. Chris Tillman
5. Zach Britton
As of right now, the Orioles have four starters that should safely make the rotation. The battle for the fifth spot should be interesting, especially if the Orioles decide not to go after Joe Saunders or another starter.
Please feel free to share your opinion on the Orioles rotation in the comments below.