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Where will Orioles find more starting pitching?

Where will Orioles find more starting pitching?

The Orioles closed the 2016 season with six starting pitchers. They may open 2017 with those same six—and maybe more. 

Because of injuries or performance, teams usually need more than five starters. The Chicago Cubs, whose five best starters threw 152 of 162 games are the exception. 

But, the Cubs are so good that Jason Hammel, who 15 games and had a 3.83 ERA, has been inactive for the first two postseason series. 

The Orioles used nine starters in the season just past: Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman (30 starters each), Ubaldo Jimenez (25), Yovani Gallardo (23), Dylan Bundy (14), Tyler Wilson (13), Mike Wright (12), Wade Miley (11) and Vance Worley (4).  

All but Worley are under club control for 2017. 

Tillman, Gausman and Bundy comprise a potentially formidable top three while Gallardo, Jimenez and Miley all pitched creditably in the season’s final weeks. 

Two seasons ago, the Orioles went into spring training with six starters for five spots: Tillman, Gausman, Jimenez, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris. 

Norris pitched himself out of the rotation, and the club tried Wilson and Wright. 

The Orioles want not only five good starters, but five potential starters in back of those five. 

They’ll hope that Wilson and Wright given another year could be part of that solution. 

For the moment, there don’t appear to be major league ready starters in the minors. Christopher Lee, who was shut down with a shoulder injury in mid-May, was 5-0 with a 2.98 ERA with Bowie. 

At the start of last season, the Orioles hoped Lee would be a potential starter late in the year, but that wasn’t possible. 

The most often used starters for the Baysox did not have impressive numbers: Jayson Aquino (5-10, 3.90), Brandon Barker (5-7, 4.75) Jason Garcia (6-10, 4.73), David Hess (5-13, 5.37) and John Means (4-8, 4.69). Matthew Grimes, who pitched well at Frederick, was 3-5 with a 4.68 ERA. 

It was even less promising at the Orioles’ highest level, Triple-A Norfolk. The Tides’ most used starter was Joe Gunkel, who went 8-11 with a 4.08 ERA. Gunkel has yet to be added to the 40-man roster and wasn’t a serious consideration for a September callup. 

If Wilson or Wright can show they’ve improved in 2017 that would be a help because none of the six top starters have options remaining, and just two of the top five relievers (Mychal Givens and Donnie Hart). 

In the early years of the Dan Duquette-Buck Showalter regime, the Orioles could option pitchers more freely, but now with the starters as well as Brad Brach, Zach Britton and Darren O’Day assured to be on the team, it’s harder for them to be more flexible.

Givens was so good and valuable that the Orioles never came close to optioning him in 2016. 

Perhaps the Orioles will want to make room for Parker Bridwell and Oliver Drake, who can be freely moved. Aquino was called up in September, but only got in two games then. 

At Duquette and Showalter’s season-ending press conference, Duquette indicated that he would be looking for additional starters and more left-handed pitching. 

The free agent market isn’t loaded with top shelf talent, and the Orioles will probably look for pitchers who’ve had good track records in the past, but have suffered a down year or two. 

MORE ORIOLES: Will there be a Vanimal sighting in 2017?

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Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

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USA Today Sports

Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

BALTIMORE  -- Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman will wear No. 34 next season as a tribute to Roy Halladay, who was killed in a plane crash last month.

Gausman announced the switch Thursday on his Twitter account. The right-hander wore No. 39 last year.

Gausman and Halladay are both from Colorado, and the Orioles pitcher said he followed Halladay's career closely and idolized him.

In a post next a photo of his new jersey, Gausman wrote: "Roy gave me the inspiration that I could fulfill even my biggest of dreams -- being a pitcher just like him."

Gausman concluded: "The loss of Roy is tragic and saddening, but I feel honored to have watched everything he achieved."

Halladay died on Nov. 7 when his small plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He played 16 big league seasons, winning the Cy Young Award in each league and being named an All-Star eight times.

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Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

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USA TODAY Sports

Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

HOUSTON (AP) -- Home runs kept flying over the wall at Minute Maid Park, on line drives up toward the train tracks, on fly balls that just dropped over the fence.

Seven more were hit in Game 5, raising the total to a World Series record 22 -- with two possible more games to play. Twenty-five runs were scored in a game started by the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and the Astros' Dallas Keuchel, Cy Young Award winners regarded as among baseball's best.

After a season when sluggers outpaced even their steroid-era predecessors for home runs, some are convinced that something is amiss with the baseballs.

"The main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls," Justin Verlander said Sunday, two days before he takes the mound in Game 6 and tries to pitch the Astros to their first title. "They're a little slick. You just deal with it. But I don't think it's the case of one pitcher saying, `Hey, something is different here.' I think as a whole, everybody is saying, `Whoa, something is a little off here.'"

A record eight home runs were hit in Game 2, including five in extra innings, and Game 5's seven long balls would have tied the old mark. The 13-12, 10-inning Astros' win Sunday night was the second-highest scoring game in Series history.

Keuchel was quoted as saying after Game 2: "Obviously, the balls are juiced."

Not so obvious to everyone, even amid the power surge.

"I haven't personally noticed anything. I haven't tried to think about it either," Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow said after giving up two homers in Game 5. "It's not something you want to put in your own head."

Same for Kershaw, even after giving up his record eighth homer of the postseason Sunday.

"I don't really pay attention to it," Kershaw said. "I just assume that both sides are dealing with it, so I'm not going to worry about it."

This year's long ball assault topped the 21 of the 2002 Series. Anaheim hit seven and Barry Bonds and his San Francisco Giants slugged 14 over seven games. That was the year before survey drug testing.

Speculation that something has changed includes a study claiming to have found differences in the size and seam height of balls since the 2015 All-Star break.

"I know there was talk about different sizes and some of the baseballs were slightly bigger and some were smaller. Some of the seams were higher, some of the seams were lower. But, no, it's been consistent," said Rich Hill, who will start Game 6 for the Dodgers. "I think that just has to do with conditions -- if it's colder it's going to be slicker. If it's a little bit warmer out or humid, I think you're going to find that you're going to have a little bit more of moisture to the baseballs."

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred insists nothing nefarious is going on.

"I'm absolutely confident that the balls that we're using are within our established specifications," he said Friday.

Verlander rejected that assertion.

"I know Mr. Manfred said the balls haven't changed, but I think there's enough information out there to say that's not true," he said.

Verlander also does not think it's an issue of how balls are rubbed up before games.

"I know baseball uses the same mud for every single ball for every single game that's played," he said. "I think there's a broader issue that we're all missing."

On the day he become commissioner in January 2015, Manfred said, "I'm cognizant in the drop in offense over the last five years, and it's become a topic of conversation in the game, and it's something that we're going to have to continue to monitor and study."

Offense started rebounding during the second half of the season, and a record 6,105 home runs were hit this year, 2.4 percent more than the previous mark of 5,963 set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.

"I think it's pretty clear," Verlander said. "I think our commissioner has said publicly that they wanted more offense in the game. I'm pretty sure I'm not fabricating a quote here when I say that. I think it was already All-Star break of `15, or right before, when he said that."

San Francisco's Johnny Cueto and Toronto's Marcus Stroman also think the balls have changed, with Stroman blaming slick balls for a rise in pitcher blisters -- an affliction which has struck Hill a few times in the past couple seasons, too.

Houston's Brent Strom and the Dodgers' Rick Honeycutt, the World Series pitching coaches, both were quoted by Sports Illustrated on Sunday as saying the slickness of the ball made throwing sliders difficult.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I don't see a ton difference, but I'm not going to get in a verbal war with coaches and players who think otherwise."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a similar view but acknowledged the power records got his attention.

"The pitchers talk about it feels different in their hand. The one component is the slickness and guys at different ballparks rub it up differently," he said. "Sort of feels the same to me. But it's hard to argue the numbers. You know there's more velocity. Guys are swinging harder. I know in Los Angeles the air was light. It was hot. The ball was flying, carrying more than typically. But I hesitate to try to give you any insight because I really don't know."

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