The starting rotation war between pitchers for the Baltimore Orioles will be one of the most intriguing storylines to watch come spring training.
In this dynamic arms race, no lead will be safe.
It will feature possibly 13 pitchers who will fight for the right to take to the hill for the Birds every five days this summer.
Yes, I said it: 13.
There is Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Tillman. These gents combined for a 29-20 record with a 3.61 ERA in 2012.
But do not tell that to Miguel Gonzalez, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Steve Johnson. These hurlers have the ability to pitch well at the major league level, though Gonzalez and Johnson have shown to be the most consistency in this bunch.
Tommy Hunter is also in the mix. As is rookie phenom Dylan Bundy, who has the talent to throw a huge wrench into the plans of the aforesaid.
Then there is Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland and the all-but-forgotten Tsuyoshi Wada.
According to Sporting News, this left-handed Japanese import may be ready to compete for a spot in Baltimore’s starting rotation this spring.
Do not let off the accelerator. Per MASN’s Roch Kubatko, the Orioles are also still interested in re-signing lefty Joe Saunders...for the right price.
There will be little room to breathe.
The five Baltimore starters that emerge from this fog of war will be instantly deployed into a combat zone that is the AL East—a zone that includes serious talent, muscle and hustle (and, in the New York Yankees' case, age and experience).
In this environment, Hammel and Co. will have to carry this team with enough skill to support an Orioles offense that, while flexible, is unpredictable (and sometimes anemic).
Fresh off a .247 team batting average in 2012, the Birds have yet to acquire a game-changing bat that can hit for average.
This is not to say that a lineup that includes Nate McLouth, Nick Markakis, (a healthy) Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado and (insert DH here) cannot scrape enough runs together help this team win.
But while the Birds have potential to pound the ball hard in any given game, it is difficult to envision (at this point) this team doing this nearly every night. This is why it is critical for the Orioles to get their rotation in order early and often in 2013. Unlike the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore does not have the luxury of squandering runs and still finding consistent victory.
In a super-competitive AL East, there is very little wiggle room for long losing streaks this season. Baltimore can do it. It has the depth. But every starter must be spot on nearly every night.