2013 MLB Season: Previewing the Baltimore Orioles' Pitching Rotation

Zachary Krueger@@ZacharyKruegerCorrespondent IIApril 1, 2013

2013 MLB Season: Previewing the Baltimore Orioles' Pitching Rotation

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    On Tuesday the Orioles will begin their encore season after a successful 2012 campaign in which they finished second in the AL East and made the playoffs for the first time since 1997

    The Orioles had an improbable season last year, showing great resilience through injury and extra innings. They started 12 different pitchers last season and won an impressive 16 straight extra-inning games in the regular season.  

    While the Orioles hope to see a healthier and more effective pitching rotation for the 2013 season, let's take a look at the arms the Orioles broke camp with for the start of this season. 

1. Jason Hammel (RHP)

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    2013 Prediction: 13-9, 3.51 ERA

    One of the biggest surprises for the Orioles in their rotation last season was pitcher Jason Hammel.  The Orioles traded for Hammel before the 2012 season, acquiring him and pitcher Matt Lindstrom from the Rockies for pitcher Jeremy Guthrie.

    Before coming to the Orioles, Hammel had a total of six major league seasons under his belt, with a career record of 34-45 and an ERA of 4.99.  However, last season Hammel finally seemed to have found the right stuff to make him the Orioles' ace for the start of this season.

    Hammel went 8-6 last season for the Orioles in 20 starts.  While the number of wins may not appear all that impressive, Hammel also posted a 3.43 ERA last season, a new career best for the 30-year-old pitcher.  

    Against divisional opponents is where Hammel saw most of his success, going 6-3 against teams in his division.  While Hammel's health will remain a question for the season, he seems to be healthy heading into this year.

    Look for Hammel to improve on his 2012 campaign as the ace of the Orioles' pitching rotation. 

2. Wei-Yin Chen (LHP)

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    2013 Prediction:  14-10, 3.96 ERA

    The Orioles finally found success in the player pool overseas in rookie Wei-Yin Chen.  While the Orioles did have some success with former pitcher Koji Uehara, whom they signed in 2009, it was not until his second year with the team that Uehara found his groove.  

    This however was not the case Chen.

    Chen was everything the Orioles could have hoped for out of a first-year player making his way to the MLB from overseas.  Chen has the distinct honor of being the only Orioles starter durable enough to start more than 20 games on the season when he started 32 games last year.

    Chen posted a 12-11 record last season with a 4.02 ERA for the Orioles, finishing fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

    Chen has six different pitches in his repertoire, using a steady diet of fastballs, sliders and changeups to retire hitters.

    At only 27 years old, Chen is still young enough to improve on his success from last year and become a formidable No. 2 starter in the league.

3. Miguel Gonzalez (RHP)

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    2013 Prediction:  16-8, 3.49 ERA

    Miguel Gonzalez was a late May call-up for the Orioles and moved into their starting rotation in early July.  For a 28-year-old who has been a major league journeyman since 2005, Gonzalez turned in a strong season following his May 29 major league debut

    Gonzalez surprised fans this season upon joining the team, finishing with a 9-4 record and an ERA of 3.25.  Gonzalez was also second for the Orioles' starting rotation in batting average against, with hitters only averaging .235 last season.  

    For Baltimore fans there is even more to love about the young arm of Gonzalez.  While it is only a small sample size, Gonzalez was an absolute Yankee killer this season.  In two regular-season starts and one postseason start against the Yankees, Gonzalez went 2-1, pitching 20.2 innings while giving up only five earned runs and striking out 25 as opposed to only one walk.  

    Gonzalez showed great command and talent for a rookie pitcher last season.  Having locked up the third spot in the Orioles' rotation and with the opportunity to turn in a full season, look for Gonzalez to make some more noise in the AL East. 

4. Jake Arrieta (RHP)

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    2013 Prediction:  5-10, 4.96 ERA

    Last season Jake Arrieta made his debut as the Opening Day starter for the Orioles.  If Arrieta's success on Opening Day was any indication to the kind of season he was to have, he would have had Cy Young-worthy stuff all year.  

    Unfortunately for Arrieta, 2012 was a season to forget and 2013 is now a season to prove that he belongs in the majors.

    Arrieta flat-out struggled last season.  After posting a 3-9 record with an ERA of 6.20, nothing about Arrieta made him look like a staff ace.  As if Arrieta's statistics weren't bad enough, his season continued to go downhill when he was demoted to the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate in early July.

    Arrieta was able to salvage a small portion of the season after being called up in September to pitch out of the bullpen where he made six appearances, but still allowed 10 runs in only 13.1 innings pitched.  

    With the Orioles having recently signed veteran pitcher Freddy Garcia to a minor league contract, I would not be surprised if Arrieta saw himself being demoted yet again should he struggle early.

    Arrieta played in five games for the Orioles this spring training and did well enough to be penciled in as the Orioles' fourth starter.  Despite a solid spring, look for Arrieta to be on a short leash this season.  

5. Chris Tillman (RHP)

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    2013 Prediction:  10-10 4.21 ERA

    Chris Tillman had a career year in his fourth season with the Orioles.  

    Similar to teammate Miguel Gonzalez, it was not until early July that Tillman made his first start of the season.  Tillman saw his numbers improve in just about every statistical category. The 24-year-old right-hander went 9-3 on the season in 15 starts, posting a 2.93 ERA for the Birds.  

    You can't help but love the potential Tillman has.  After gutting out a tough first three seasons with several demotions and call-ups, it only seemed fitting that he would finally get his time in the spotlight.  

    Tillman is still young enough to put together a solid season for himself.  Despite his good numbers, it's tough to project the fifth arm in the rotation to post another season like last year, but Tillman could still post quality numbers for the Orioles at the end of the rotation.

    Note:  Although he is listed as being on the disabled list to start the season, Tillman is expected to come back from a strained abdominal muscle to start on April 6 for the Orioles.

6. Bullpen

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    2013 Prediction:  45 saves, 3.24 ERA

    The Baltimore Orioles had a dominant bullpen last season, and had several chances to prove their dominance after playing in 18 extra-inning games.  

    As an entire unit the Orioles' bullpen went 32-11 on the year with a 3.00 ERA and 55 saves.  

    To be completely honest, Baltimore's bullpen really didn't miss a beat in the 2012 year, having seven pitchers who posted an ERA of 3.00 or lower.  The good news for the Orioles is that they are bringing back a lot of familiar faces in the bullpen for the 2013 season.

    For the last two seasons Jim Johnson has pitched in 69 or more games out of the Orioles' bullpen.  Johnson appeared in 71 games during the regular season last year, recording a league-high 51 saves and posting a 2.49 ERA.  

    One new face to the Orioles is left-hander T.J. McFarland.  McFarland has yet to pitch in a regular-season game in the majors and has a 48-31 career record in the minors with a 3.83 ERA, letting hitters hit .271 off of him over that span.  

    McFarland's spring training, while not the most impressive, was enough to earn him a spot in the bullpen.

    With the return of pitchers Darren O'Day, Pedro Strop and Troy Patton, among others, the Orioles maintained enough pieces of their bullpen to give them a shot at once again having one of the top pens in the league.