The identity of four of the Orioles’ five starters is known. Barring a major trade or injuries, Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Miguel Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jimenez will be in the team’s starting rotation.
Wei-Yin Chen probably will not be. It’s still the early days of free agency, and no major signings have occurred, but there’s a lot of interest in Chen, and it would be a surprise if he returned.
Many names have already been connected with the Orioles and more will surface, but the fifth starter, who actually may be placed much higher in the rotation, is very much an unknown.
In Dan Duquette’s conference call following Matt Wieters’ accepting the team’s qualifying offer, he mentioned that he thought some of the team’s younger pitchers could challenge for a starting role.
Two rookies, Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson, combined to start 14 games in 2015.
Wright had a few outstanding starts, and then some that were awful.
In his first two, Wright didn’t allow a run and gave up just seven hits in 14 1/3 innings.
After he returned from the minor leagues, the Orioles sent him to the bullpen, but he immediately suffered a strained calf, and went on the disabled list.
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Gonzalez went on the disabled list in early September, and Wilson had an oblique injury, so Wright started again. In his three September starts, Wright allowed 13 runs in 12 innings.
When Wilson was healthy enough to start, Wright went back to the bullpen and finished the season with two scoreless outings. He didn’t allow a run in three relief appearances.
His numbers as a starter weren’t very inspiring, 2-5 with a 6.48 ERA.
Wright dominated at Norfolk, going 9-1 with a 2.02 ERA, but the Orioles see his immediate future in the bullpen.
They hope he can fill Tommy Hunter’s role. With Brad Brach and Mychal Givens and perhaps a free agent setup man, maybe the bullpen can again be a strength.
Wilson, who also pitched out of the bullpen, is looked upon more as a starter. He was drafted in the 10th round in 2011 and methodically worked his way up the system.
He was 2-2 with a 3.50 ERA in nine appearances, five of them starts.
Some scouts think Wilson will have a tough time making the adjustment to major league starting, but he showed one impressive trait in his time with the Orioles.
Wilson allowed just one home run in 36 innings. He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, and struck out just 13 batters in 36 innings.
Manager Buck Showalter wanted to give Wilson a final late-season start, and on Oct. 1, he got one. In front of dozens of fans, Wilson pitched an inning against a Toronto team that had clinched the AL East the day before, and then was shut down after rain delayed the game for more than three hours.
Wilson will get a chance to starter, though he could certainly be a long man, too.
Last month, the Orioles also picked up another contender to start. Vance Worley was acquired on waivers from Pittsburgh.
Worley, who won 11 games on the terrific 2011 Phillies staff that also featured Roy Halladay, Cole Hamel, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt, has been mediocre since then.
In 2014, he was 8-4 with a 2.45 ERA with the Pirates, but followed that with a 4-6 record and a 4.02 ERA.
Worley made $2.45 million last season, and the Orioles may not want to pay him $3 million when he’s eligible for arbitration.
While they’re eager to see Worley, he could be non-tendered early next month.
T.J. McFarland is also a possibility for the rotation, but with so many right-handed starters, they also like him as a long man.
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