Orioles manager Buck Showalter would never say it. He tries not to put too much pressure on any individual player, especially a younger one.
But if the Orioles are going to be a contender all year, they need to get consistent pitching. We all know that.
Once Kevin Gausman re-joins the team Monday, the Orioles will have three members of the rotation who have combined for just 59 big league starts. None of the three – Gausman, Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson – has spent a full season in the majors. Wilson is the oldest; he’ll turn 27 in September. Wright is 26 and Gausman, 25.
They are not young kids, but they are still inexperienced when it comes to pitching in the majors.
And yet the case can be made that their progress this year could be the difference between the Orioles making the playoffs and being an also-ran.
We know this club will play great defense and bash enough homers to score plenty of runs. We know the bullpen will hold onto the majority of leads it is given.
The question all along has been, how effective will the rotation be?
But when that question was posed in early March, the rotation was supposed to be Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Gausman, Yovani Gallardo and Miguel Gonzalez.
Gausman has been on the disabled list since the spring with right shoulder tendinitis. Gonzalez was released and is now in the Chicago White Sox organization. And, on Saturday, Gallardo was placed on the 15-day disabled list with what the team called “right shoulder bicep tendinitis.” More information on the injury – including how long Gallardo will be out – should be revealed after Gallardo has a MRI on Sunday.
So two-fifths of the expected rotation is out; Gausman is back, but it’s basically Opening Day for him.
If Gausman is who the Orioles think he is, he should end up as a contributing member of the 2016 rotation – at the least. It’s possible he could end up as this group’s ace.
Wright and Wilson are bigger mysteries. Neither has the upside of Gausman, but both have had success in a limited scope.
And now they should get their chance to see if they can stick in the rotation for a period of time.
Wilson did his part Saturday in his first start of the season: He allowed three runs on six hits and no walks in five innings to pick up the win as the Orioles beat the Kansas City Royals, 8-3, Saturday.
Wright gets a chance to help the Orioles win the series at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
If either stumbles, the Orioles could turn back to Vance Worley, who already has made two starts for the team. There isn’t any other immediate help at Triple-A Norfolk.
So, in a sense, the Orioles’ fate this season is in the hands of a trio of young starters who have yet to fully prove itself.
How the three do will go a long way to revealing whether this will be a joyous season for the Orioles or an unsatisfying one.