As the days count down, the Orioles have yet to address their starting rotation. It didn’t seem that long ago that executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter sat side by side at the team’s season-ending press conference and said that improving the Orioles starting pitching should be the top offseason priority.
Oh, and they lost their most reliable starter -- and only left-hander -- when Wei-Yin Chen left via free agency.
They could still make a play for right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who is now the top remaining free-agent starter out there, but that would first force a dramatic change in philosophy because the Orioles don’t want to forfeit their first-round draft pick to sign Gallardo.
Right-hander Mat Latos is a classic bounce-back candidate, but concerns about his makeup have scared off other clubs. But Showalter has been successful in fitting players like that into his clubhouse seamlessly.
What about a flier on someone like right-hander Tim Lincecum if his throwing sessions look promising coming off hip surgery? That’s a reclamation similar to some the Orioles have tried in the past, with different levels of success.
One thing is for sure, the Orioles are looking at all of their options. I’ve heard they even kicked the tires on the notion of bringing back right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. But don't count on that happening.
The Orioles could still make a move to add a starting pitcher, but as we get closer to spring training, the likelihood is growing that the Orioles will look internally for their No. 5 starter.
Here’s a look at four possibilities on the current 40-man roster:
Vance Worley: Claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates early this offseason, the 28-year-old Worley is the pitcher out of this group with the most starting experience. He has 81 career starts under his belt, with a 28-26 record and 3.86 ERA. Most of that success was in the National League with the Philadelphia Phillies and Pirates, and Worley struggled in his only previous stint in the American League (1-5, 7.21 ERA in 10 starts with the Minnesota Twins in 2013). He opened last season in Pittsburgh’s starting rotation and was 2-3 with a 4.38 ERA in seven starts before he was bumped to the bullpen.
Tyler Wilson: Wilson made five big league starts last season, going 1-2 with a 4.32 ERA, but three of his five starts were quality starts – he went at least six innings and allowed two or fewer runs in each. In his brief stint with the Orioles last year, Wilson’s greatest strength was his ability to avoid damage. He has great makeup and he’s smart, so he should continue to improve with more seasoning and opportunities. However, he was more successful as a reliever, pitching to a 1.64 ERA over 11 relief innings.
Mike Wright: When Wright was great -- as he was when he first joined the Orioles, opening his major league career with 14 1/3 scoreless innings over two starts -- he was superb. But when he was bad, he was wildly erratic. After winning his first two decisions, he lost his next five. When Wright struggled, his confidence waned, and he became his own worst enemy, but regardless, he has plus stuff. And the work he has done in the offseason, working out with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson in California, has been noticed by the Orioles.
Brian Matusz: At this point, it’s not likely that the Orioles would move Matusz to the rotation, especially since he plays an important role as the team’s left-handed relief specialist. But expect the Orioles to stretch Matusz out during spring training – as they have the past several years – so if there’s no other viable options, he could be ready to make a transition to starting. The Orioles could use a lefty in the rotation, and Matusz would welcome the move because he has yearned for the opportunity to start again.
Again, the Orioles could still make a move to add a starter. The offseason is far from over, and don’t forget that they signed right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year deal well into spring training two years ago. They also could make a trade, but the Orioles’ trade chips are limited.