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Baltimore Orioles: Pitching Staff Has Officially Become Survival of the Fittest

ATLANTA - JULY 6: Jair Jurrjens #49 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the Colorado Rockies at Turner Field on July 6, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
James MorisetteCorrespondent IIIJanuary 27, 2013

As if the Baltimore Orioles were not already MLB’s biggest enigma, things have become more intriguing in Charm City.

With Baltimore’s addition of Jair Jurrjens (per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports), the Orioles rotation officially looks like what Charles Darwin would call the "survival of the fittest." For Orioles fans, this is a scary thought, especially when considering this team had a remarkable season in 2012.

Come spring training, 14—potentially 15—young and able starting pitchers will fight like mad to earn the right to compete on the big stage.

For Jason Hammel and crew, there will be little comfort once the Grapefruit League schedule commences on February 23.

Right from the starting gate, the spotlight will be on each of these 15 hurlers taking to the dusty hill to perform to their max. This includes acclaimed left-hander Wei Yin Chen, who must avoid a sophomore slump. It also includes Chris Tillman, who must prove he has truly turned the corner, as well as Miguel Gonzalez, who must prove his desire to be a regularly featured staple in the O's rotation.

At the end of spring training, five of the strongest pitchers will earn a spot in Baltimore’s rotation. Yet the guys who make this cut must not let their guard down. They must keep their feet pressed firm on the gas pedal. This is because their possible replacement will be eagerly waiting in the wings.

Now, some pitchers who fall short of making the rotation will be shifted to an already-ironclad bullpen. Accentuating the positive, this can definitely benefit the Orioles, especially in extra-inning games. Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter and Jake Arrieta may very well end up finding their full-time niches in this role.

Unfortunately, some will not make the 25-man roster out of spring training. These men may be shipped back to the minor leagues. While that's deemed as a negative, it may end up being a blessing in disguise. That is especially true for still-developing prospects like Dylan Bundy, T.J. McFarland and Zach Clark.

For an Orioles fanbase that has endured watching a thin minor league system the past few years, the very thought of having young-gun arms on the farm is refreshing, to say the least.  

Of course, some underachieving Oriole hurlers will be ultimately placed on waivers. While disappointing, a silver lining may come in the form of other teams that will provide them good opportunities.

Or maybe the Orioles brass hangs on to one or two of these guys, later packaging them for a solid player who could help this club during a possible postseason run.

Sprinkle in Baltimore native Steve Johnson fighting for a starting spot, Zach Britton battling to return to the great promise he once displayed and import lefty Tsuyoshi Wada returning to form, and Orioles Nation will be treated to some incredible spring training storylines.      

It is for this reason many Orioles fans will be glued to their televisions and computer screens this spring, watching this ultimate game of Survivor unfold. 

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