Dan Duquette: Reliance on youth shows 'you're in transition with your major league pitching staff'

When Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette was touting the team's four homegrown pitchers who are set to take part in their first Opening Day on Monday, he touched on the biggest issue the 2016 Orioles might have.

While the inclusion of starter Mike Wright, possible fifth starter Tyler Wilson and relievers Mychal Givens and Dylan Bundy on the Opening Day roster is a good sign for the organization as a whole, it also means, Duquette said, that "you're in transition with your major league pitching staff."


He added, however, that he's confident with the group he has entering Opening Day.

"I like the track record of [Chris] Tillman and [Yovani] Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez," Duquette said. "They've all won more games than they've lost, and they should provide some good leadership for the team. When you look at what Mike Wright has done, he's got good stuff. He looks like he's going to be a good, winning, solid major league pitcher. Then we've got Kevin Gausman in the wings. We have a pretty good, solid starting rotation."

That rotation, headlined by Tillman on Monday, represents the biggest question on an otherwise talented team. Tillman is trying to work back toward his All-Star form of 2013 and his career year in 2014 after posting a 4.99 ERA in a difficult 2015.

Gallardo is the marquee free agent pitcher the Orioles signed, bringing questionable peripherals, with his walk rate rising each year, his strikeout rate declining, and his WHIP coming in at a career-high 1.416 last season. Jimenez was at times the Orioles' best pitcher, but a disastrous July and August saw him end the season with a 4.11 ERA.

Gausman, who begins the season on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, has the highest upside among the group, with a big fastball and the potential for his first full season as a starter ahead of him. Until he rejoins the rotation, it will be Wilson or Vance Worley in his place.

And Wright, who joins the rotation to begin the season after making nine major league appearances last year, has what some believe is the best pure stuff in the Orioles system.

But in this case, the mix of established veterans who will likely give you what they expect and young, homegrown pitchers isn't fostering much optimism. Results for the group in spring, save for one or two starts for each, were not promising.

Pitching coach Dave Wallace said Sunday that he thinks the rotation is "going to just take us a while."

"It's going to take us a while to know Yovani even though he's a veteran," Wallace said. "It was nice seeing him in the spring, but there's nothing like seeing a guy in the regular season. That's when it all happens. We've had so many guys over the years who have 'good springs' and the season starts and maybe it's a different story. On the flip side, you have guys who never have good springs – and I've had so many of those guys – but when the bell rings and the lights come on they're different animals.

"You're anxious to see that. You're anxious to see Yovani and some of the other young guys, Tyler and Mike and all those guys, to see what we have. … It's a different scenario, but it's kind of exciting to wait and see."

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