5 questions heading into the Orioles' offseason
The Orioles' participation in the 2012 playoffs wasn't just surprising; it was illuminating. It demonstrated how far the club had come this year and also what it needs to do to get back to the postseason -- and last longer -- in 2013.
No one -- at least no one whose paycheck doesn't have a bird on it -- could have predicted that these Orioles would win 93 regular season games and three more in the postseason.
But this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. And losing to the New York Yankees in five games in the American League Division Series highlighted the club's deficiencies as well as its strengths.
The Orioles need to become less one-dimensional offensively. And, like most teams, they lack an ace that will grab the ball in clutch situations and pitch deep into games, sparing the bullpen while frustrating the opposition.
So with that in mind, here are the club's five biggest questions heading into the offseason and our best attempt to answer them:
-- Dan Connolly
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Who will be in the starting rotation?
The Orioles have plenty of options for once, even if Saunders does not return.
Jason Hammel likely will lead the rotation even if he chooses to have a second surgery on his right knee this offseason. Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen all will be back.
Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Steve Johnson will compete for a rotation spot next spring, and Dylan Bundy will, at the least, be knocking at the door at Triple-A Norfolk.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said lefty Brian Matusz will head into spring training as a starter to build up his innings. Ultimately, though, he could end up back in relief after he became an invaluable member of the bullpen in the second half of 2012.
The organization also believes that this year¿s No. 1 draft pick, Kevin Gausman, is coming quickly. And, eventually, Tsuyoshi Wada will have recovered from the Tommy John elbow surgery he had in May.
Still, it wouldn't be a surprise if Duquette adds to the starting pitching inventory.
Although Zack Greinke is the only unrestricted free agent considered to be a potential ace, there are some solid arms available including Ryan Dempster, Hiroki Kuroda, Shaun Marcum, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson. Jake Peavy, Dan Haren, Gavin Floyd (Mount St. Joseph) and James Shields could also become available if their options aren't picked up.