For now, Orioles potential starters are familiar ones - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

For now, Orioles potential starters are familiar ones

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Three weeks from today, pitchers and catchers report for spring training in Sarasota, Fla. It’s fair to wonder if the starting rotation, which looks as it did when last season ended, will change between now and Feb 12.

While new general manager Mike Elias has added four infielders and one reliever, Austin Brice, to the 40-man staff, the starters that finished the 115-loss season are still on hand, and no potential challengers have been brought in.

Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb are the likely starters for the season-opening series at Yankee Stadium in late March, but who would come after them?

Last season, it was David Hess and Yefry Ramirez. In 21 games, all but two of them starts, Hess managed a 3-10 record and 4.88 ERA. His 1.384 WHIP was the lowest among the regular starters, which includes Kevin Gausman, who was traded July 31.

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Ramirez was 1-8 with a 5.92 ERA and a 1.531 WHIP. He walked five batters per nine innings.

There are other contenders.

Jimmy Yacabonis had a 5.40 ERA in 12 games, seven of them starts. Yacabonis had not started as a professional before last season, and perhaps Elias and manager Brandon Hyde want to see how he looks as a starter.

Josh Rogers, who was acquired from the New York Yankees in the Zach Britton trade, got three late-season starts and had an 8.40 ERA before he reached his innings’ limit and was shut down.

John Means was added when Cashner and Cobb had to end their seasons early because of injuries, Means pitched creditably for Triple-A Norfolk as a starter (3.48 ERA) after his promotion from Double-A Bowie. He got one relief appearance in the season’s final week, but he could be a candidate.

Rogers and Means are left-handed, the only left-handers among the potential starters.

Then there’s Luis Ortiz, who was picked up in the Jonathan Schoop trade from Milwaukee. He allowed more baserunners (10) than he recorded outs (7) in two appearances, one of them a start that was cut short by a season-ending hamstring injury.

Another pitcher who’ll likely be looked at closely is Dillon Tate, who came along with Rogers in the Britton trade. Tate was added to the 40-man roster. Tate had a 5.75 ERA in seven starts for Bowie and could begin the season at Norfolk.

Sean Gilmartin, who pitched in long relief but who has started in the big leagues, was taken off the 40-man roster after the season but was re-signed to a minor league contract. Perhaps he’ll get a look, too.

The most promising pitcher in the high minors is left-hander Keegan Akin, who was 14-7 with a 3.27 ERA for the Baysox, but he doesn’t appear ready for the majors, yet.

If these names don’t bowl you over, that’s to be expected. Perhaps you were hoping that Elias would sign a free-agent starter or two to augment the staff.

The Orioles do have some promising pitchers: Michael Baumann, DL Hall, and Zac Lowther and Alex Wells, but none of them pitched above High-A Frederick, and Hall was at Low-A Delmarva.

And, of course, there’s Hunter Harvey, who the Orioles are hoping finally stays healthy all season and makes his major league debut, six years after he was the team’s No. 1 draft choice.

There are still scores of free-agent starters available, and many of them have already pitched for the Orioles: Yovani Gallardo, Miguel Gonzalez, Jason Hammel, Jeremy Hellickson, Edwin Jackson, Wade Miley and Chris Tillman.

Gonzalez is unlikely to pitch until well into this season after shoulder surgery, and the Orioles aren’t going to chase after Miley, who re-energized his career with a strong season in Milwaukee.

Elias would probably wait longer before signing a bigger name hoping for a bounce-back season — Marco Estrada, Doug Fister, Francisco Liriano and James Shields.

Those pitchers have substantial records of accomplishments but had a rough 2018. If the Orioles could sign one or two of them for a low guarantee, that’s a possibility, but probably not until after camp opens.

For Elias and Hyde, they want to see what Bundy, Hess, Ramirez and the other young pitchers can do in 2019. They’ll need Cashner and Cobb and maybe some other veterans to make sure they can get through the season.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. ClyOs

    January 22, 2019 at 8:06 am

    Rich, I hope the Orioles don’t sign a veteran pitcher. I believe Bundy, Cobb and Cashner are 1, 2, and 3 in the order if health. Hess had a good finish in 2018 going 1-3 with a 3.05 era in his last 7 start. If he can carry that over to start 2019 he’s 4. And as you stated “There are other contenders to start from within”. Elias and Hyde need to give the young guys a chance before overpaying a James Shields type pitcher to a one year contract to go 7-16.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 22, 2019 at 8:45 am

      ClyOs, remember September when they couldn’t get through the season because of injuries to Cobb and Cashner? They need more starters than you think.

      If they sign a bounce back guy and he does, perhaps they’ll get some value in the trade market.

      • W43

        January 22, 2019 at 10:12 am

        You can never have too many starting pitchers.

      • ClyOs

        January 22, 2019 at 2:12 pm

        I see your point, and yes Cobb and Cashner will probably miss time at some point this year. It just need to be someone who comes as a real bargain. I rather see them give Mike Wright another shot at starting before overpaying a free agent.

  2. ZantiGM

    January 22, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Don’t forget Dean Kremer
    And later in the season Braden Hanifee might be ready

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 22, 2019 at 9:43 am

      You’re on it, Phil!

  3. Orial

    January 22, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Yes a Shields,Estrada addition would bolster a staff that has tendency to fall on the DL quite a bit. But for the umpteenth time let’s tighten up the defense to give the pitchers a fighting chance.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 22, 2019 at 12:28 pm

      I think the priority placed on infielders this offseason has underscored that need, Orial.

  4. willmiranda

    January 22, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    I think that with the pitchers, as with the position players, our best hopes are for some individuals with physical talent somehow have the light come on and have breakout years. Expected development at their present paces would take far too long; their physical powers would be waning by then. I do question, though, the practice of developing young arms by putting them in the bullpen, minor or major league. I think they should begin as starters to build up their innings and experience. It seems to me that it is easier for someone to transition from a starter to a reliever than from a reliever to a starter. I’m not speaking of elite closers, but of long- or middle- relief. We appear to put strong young arms into nondescript relief roles without finding out if they could be starters.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 22, 2019 at 12:33 pm

      Will, most major league pitchers start off as starters in the minors because they’re so valuable.

      They’re not converted into relievers until they show they shouldn’t start.

      Cases like Yacabonis’ are rare. The Orioles knew they didn’t have many major-league ready starters in Triple-A and needed depth. He could always slide back into a relief role.

  5. Bhoffman1

    January 22, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    Rich your a bright guy so I assume when you put Chris Tillman as one of the free agents available you were not serious but making a joke. After the first three the rest looks pathetic and the free agents you mentioned makes me want to puke.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 22, 2019 at 12:29 pm

      Bhoffman, I wasn’t making a joke, but pointing out the type of free agents that are still available.

    • Bhoffman1

      January 22, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      I trust Elias and I do not believe his philosophy is to fill the roster with has been to hope they pan out to trade at the deadline. I think and hope he will go with younger players with potential even if we lose 120 games

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 22, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      I think he will lean that way,

  6. BirdsCaps

    January 22, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    This is an interesting rotation. It is one part contender (arranged by a GM hoping to compete for a title or at least a playoff run e.g. Bundy, Cashner, and Cobb) and one part lets lose out to obtain top picks (use whichever unprepared minor leaguer that can eat innings). Since Ortiz is likely the most major league ready, I think he probably takes the four spot in the rotation. Barring a miracle, the fifth spot is going to be very painful to watch.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 22, 2019 at 12:50 pm

      At the least, it will be interesting, BirdsCaps.

  7. PA Bird Lover

    January 22, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Very in-depth report, Rich, but I must say, a bleak one at best. You left the air out of my tires, for sure. Not that I thought the season would be anything other then hot and sweaty. One needs to be reminded occasionally, that the first rebuild year is a ball buster.
    I love your last sentence: ‘…to make sure they can get through the season.
    Sounds like empty seats Haven.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 22, 2019 at 2:42 pm

      Pa, I have to be realistic here.

  8. TxBirdFan

    January 22, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks Rich – tho not a very encouraging start to my day. This rotation is guaranteed to lose 3 games out of 5, which puts us on a path to lose 100 again. We need to pick up an established starter just to keep fans happy. I’m tired of being behind by 5+ runs by the time the 4th inning comes around. I’d like to see us competitive until at least the 7th inning to maintain interest.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 22, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      Not sure they go that way, Tx.

  9. Bhoffman1

    January 22, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    Mike Messina in HOF, great news!

  10. cedar

    January 22, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Thanks for the info Rich. I hope Bundy, Cashner, and Cobb’s number improve with Brocail as the coach. Hopefully, one of the pitchers mentioned in your article can nail down the 4th spot. Finally, happy to have Elias take a flyer on a guy who needs a bounce back year for the the 5th spot. It’s an opportunity to turn that guy around for a prospect.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 22, 2019 at 11:03 pm

      You’re welcome, Cedar.

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