This Is What The Orioles’ Starting Rotation Should Look Like Come Opening Day

Sports and Bets — March 25, 2015 at 12:42 am by

It’s still feels like freakin’ Antarctica outside, which makes what I’m about to say hard to believe:  It’s just three weeks until Opening Day.  That’s right, the boys of summer are coming back soon and it’s time to start thinking about the O’s and about who is going to do what for them this season.  The Birds are coming off an extremely successful 2014 campaign that saw them make their first ALCS appearance since 1997, but the team looks very different from the one that left Kansas City after being swept out of that Championship Series in October.  Gone are home run monster Nelson Cruz, bullpen stud Andrew Miller, and career Oriole, Nick Markakis.  What the Birds have brought in to replace these linchpins of 2014 success, so far, looks underwhelming, and several media outlets and fans are wondering aloud if the O’s did enough to sustain that 2014 momentum.  We won’t know until the hits and pitches start counting for real, of course, but my feeling is that the Orioles should have made some bigger off season moves, especially with Matt Wieters and Chris Davis up for free agency in November and especially since this team was so damn close to winning the American League last season.  But Dan Duquette saw otherwise and his flirtation with Toronto added to fan angst and frustration. But the O’s may still have the most talented team in the AL East and the Birds are going to have Manny Machado and Matt Wieters (though not as soon as they hoped) back.  They also brought in an unfulfilled talent in Travis Snider and Henry Urrutia is having a hell of a spring.  So maybe DD knows what he’s doing and the O’s will silence the naysayers who want a $300 million payroll. One thing that will remain intact from 2014 is the Orioles’ starting rotation.  All the players are back from what was a more than solid group.  The Birds enjoyed a healthy season last year as only seven pitchers made starts for the club.  The rotation boasted the fifth best starters’ ERA in the league and it was the number one reason for Baltimore’s division title.  Good pitching wins games, and that’s what this rotation did for the Orioles last season.  The only problem for the Birds is determining which of it’s current starters will make up the rotation once the Birds take the field in April.  Currently, there are six starters fighting to be in the regular rotation. All pitched last year, and all will make the team this season.  It’s a sticky kinda situation too, with Ubaldo Jimenez struggling so much and with his $50 million dollar contract hanging around Buck’s neck like a 500 pound scarf.  The money does matter, and it keeps him from being cut. And, to make things even more frustrating, his experience keeps him from being optioned.  Ugh.  But with that situation, and performance in mind, here’s what the rotation should look like to open the 2015 campaign. bs Opening Day Starter: Chris Tillman (2014: 13-6, 3.34 ERA)- Dude has earned it.  He threw 207 innings last year and he has the love and support of a man named Buck Showalter.  Tilly did go through a rough stretch early in the year, but his 2.33 second half ERA more than made up for it.  Critics say he’s  not a true #1, but  he’s going to be just 27 years old in April and I think the best is yet to come with this guy.  Solid performer with a bulldog mentality, he can pitch for my favorite team any day. CT Day 2 Starter: Kevin Gausman (2014: 7-7, 3.57 ERA)-  Call me crazy, but this kid’s potential, coupled with the way he pitched in the playoffs (8 IP and only one earned run), makes me a believer.  Gausman is just a controlled slider away from being a star and if he’s got it working, then this is the spot for him in the rotation.  The media talk of him being not on the roster come April simply because he has options left is absurd, he’s got the most raw talent on the team and to me, those pressure packed playoff situations, along with his solid 2014, proved he’s ready for the ball every fifth day. Time for the legend of the Gas-man to officially begin. kg Day 3 Starter: Wei-Yin Chen (2014: 16-6, 3.54 ERA)- Did you forget that Chen led the team in wins?  Did you forget how rock solid this guy was down the stretch?  He threw over 185 innings on the year and was a model of left-handed consistency.  This is a dude the Birds should be locking up, lefties don’t grow on trees, and entering this year he’s 29.  Seems he’s acclimated real nicely to American baseball and he may be the most underrated player on this club.  He did give up more hits than innings pitched, but even if he regresses off the 3.54 ERA and 16 wins, he’ll still be  very nice starter.  Hell, he may get better, there’s still room for that. Day 4 Starter: Bud Norris (2014: 15-8, 3.65 ERA)- Bud had a great season in ’14.  He led the rotation in strikeouts per nine innings with 7.57 and he also led the rotation in WHIP (1.22).  He’s a hell of a fourth starter and if he moves forward again in performance this season, he may amass even more than 15 wins from this spot.  Norris can chuck it, his average fastball MPH was over 94 MPH last season, and he’s refined himself as a starter.  That refinement and that velocity make him an interesting watch for 2015.  If he keeps the uptick in his career and even moves forward again, the O’smay have no choice but to lock him up to keep him in orange and black for a few years to come. Day 5 Starter: Ublado Jimenez (2014: 6-9, 4.81 ERA)- His first year as a Bird was a mess and his spring started off in the same vein.  But he has improved as the spring has grinded on and his salary is just too big for the O’s not to give him another chance.  I know, the guy walks everybody, but if he doesn’t work out, good ol’ Miguel Gonzalez is waiting in the wings.  Besides, Gonzo feels like a better fit for the pen than Jimenez. (If forced to put one or the other in the pen, which the O’s are.) Gonzo’s tough and mentally more capable to handle middle relief, he’s way less likely to walk the bases loaded in the seventh than Ubaldo.  He’s also tough enough to play whatever role Buck wants him to play. He’s was way better than Jimenez last season and he may turn out to be better than him this season as a starter, but the O’s aren’t just going to  flush $50 mil down the toilet without one more chance.  If by the end of May Jimenez hasn’t produced, then it will be Gonzo in this spot and Buck will hide big money Ubaldo in the bullpen for garbage time and spot starting. uj   stats: espn cover: fantasywired

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