If the Oriole Way is to return to full glory, it will come through the pitching staff. The organization is currently loaded with young arms and they will be the key to the next several years of O’s baseball.
2011 will give us our first real taste of what these kids might do. If we’re lucky enough, we could be looking at a Rays or Reds – esque pitching staff.
Guthrie has earned the role of #1 arm on this staff. He had an excellent 2010 season in which he posted a 1.16 WHIP over his 32 starts. The Stanford and BYU product was a 1st round draft pick in 2002, released by the Indians in 2007, and became a solid major leaguer that same season for the Orioles. Guthrie has good stuff and good control, making him one of the better pitchers in the AL East.
24 year-old, Brian Matusz, will open the season as the #2. The lefty flew through the Orioles farm system, reaching the majors after just 19 minor league starts in ’09. Matusz showcases an excellent changeup and good control of his fastball.
I’m putting Arrieta, 25, in the #3. His stuff isn’t dominating but he could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy for years to come. He mixes the standard four pitches (fastball, slider, curve, changeup) well and seems to have decent control of each of them.
Tillman will likely start the season as the #4. The 23 year-old has a good 12 to 6 curveball and an effective changeup. However, it’s his fastball that has given him trouble in the majors. He can reach the mid-90s with it, but it flies very straight, which has led to 24 home runs allowed in just 119 major league innings.
Bergesen could possibly open the season in the rotation if Matusz isn’t ready, or if Tillman goes to the bullpen. We’ve already seen Bergesen’s upside however, and I’m not sure it’s what the Orioles are hoping for out of a starter. Bergesen slings a sinking fastball and sweeping slider to try and get his outs.
Duchscherer was expected to be the #3 starter, but his surgically repaired hip was giving trouble this spring. His status and return date are in question. Knowing his injury history, I’m not holding my breath for his return.
Britton became everyone’s man-crush this spring, pitching to a 1.35 ERA in his 20 innings of work. He looked major league ready but will begin the season in AAA. Because of those odd service time rules, if Britton stays in the minors until April 21, the Orioles will have an extra year of control over his contract status. Assuming he pitches well at Norfolk, it won’t be long before we see him at Camden Yards.
Gregg is not the sexiest closer out there, and the way Uehara pitched last year, I’d prefer Koji was the closer. However, Uehara has been banged up most of March and Gregg has had a chance to work out the kinks. And there have been a lot of kinks to work out. Gregg was hit around the yard almost all spring as he perfected his “mechanics” and excuses.
Uehara is really the guy I want to see with the closer’s job. He was excellent as the closer last year and even looked good as a starter in ’09. Uehara also closed for the Yomiuri Giants in 2007, so he has more experience finishing games than you might think. Koji’s command of his fastball/splitter combination could be lethal against a tough AL East schedule.
Gonzalez will take a prominent role in the bullpen yet again. His career has been a strange roller coaster ride filled with injuries, promise, and a few saves. If he could just stay healthy and throw strikes as the top left-hander in the bullpen, Buck will be happy.
Jim Johnson dominated spring training, allowing just one earned run in his nine innings of work. He will have a tough time staying healthy using that awkward snapping of his arm to throw, but he should be fairly effective until injury strikes.
Accardo pitched well this spring and could be a pleasant bullpen surprise. He’s another guy that has battled injuries for years, but did record a 30 save season in ’07. Accardo succeeds with a diving split-finger pitch.
Berken and Rupe will be the long-relievers, relegated to mopping up the inevitable short outings that some of these young starters will have.
Overall, the rotation is a bit too young and lacking in dominant arms to compete for a playoff spot this year. Not to mention the bullpen will likely get exposed at some point. However, I think the Orioles will have a good run at the .500 mark and will likely get there.
About the Author
Written by Sven Jenkins
My name is Sven Jenkins, and I’m an independent baseball analyst from Poughkeepsie, NY. I own 60ft6in.com and do freelance work for STATS Inc. In the past, I've done research for the St. Louis Cardinals and worked one season with Baseball Info Solutions in 2007. I have also spent many nights as an official scorer in the minor leagues and played NCAA D-III baseball at SUNY New Paltz. In the off-season I travel the world, having enjoyed over 1,100 days on the road through 40 different countries. You can email me at: jenkins AT 60ft6in DOT com.