Orioles camp roster contains many pitchers but is short on starting rotation experience

The Orioles have invited 35 pitchers to big league camp this spring — the most in recent memory and possibly in club history — even though the club has just two spots filled in its starting rotation.

So that number is likely to increase because the Orioles still have starting pitching acquisitions to make, even though a plodding free-agent market has left several starting pitching options unsigned with less than two weeks before pitchers and catchers report to most camps.


It’s a challenge to bring any more than 30 pitchers to big league camp, and the Orioles’ current count — with the promise of more to come — will force the club to plan a few extra “B” games or even intrasquad games to give those pitchers enough innings.

But the most startling thing about the list of 35 pitchers who will report two Tuesdays from now is the composition of the list: There are few viable rotation candidates and even less roster flexibility.


The Orioles announced their list of 19 nonroster invitations to big league spring training, a list that includes 11 pitchers.

The rotation consists of right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman and a lot of hypothetical scenarios.

Take Bundy and Gausman out of the equation and only seven of the remaining 33 pitchers coming to big league camp have ever made a major league start. Only three of those pitchers — Mike Wright, Alec Asher and Asher Wojciechowski — have more than 10 big league starts on his resume.

That says several things, other than the obvious that there isn’t much major league starting experience among this group. Most pitchers the Orioles are bringing to big league camp are either in the reliever/swingman role or have yet to earn starts at the major league level.

After Bundy and Gausman, Mike Wright’s 21 major league starts lead the group. After that, Asher has 18 and Wojciechowski has 11. Of those three, Wright is the only one who will likely be considered for a rotation spot going into camp, and some of that has to do with the fact that he enters the season out of minor league options.

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Other pitchers who have made starts for the Orioles in the past, including Asher and Gabriel Ynoa, are also without minor league options. Nonroster invitee Jayson Aquino is also out of options, so if he makes the major league team, he would have to clear waivers before returning to the minors.

In 2012, when the Orioles used a bevy of starting pitchers, they were able to do that because there were several optionable players in that group who could move up and down between the majors and Triple-A Norfolk. This year’s group doesn’t have anywhere near that flexibility.

And the Orioles are depending on several things to go their way. They are counting on right-hander Miguel Castro — who was a valuable multiple-inning reliever last season — to make a seamless transition to starting. They’re hoping Wright finally clicks as a starter, that Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr. has enough major league-ready tools to give the Orioles an internal left-handed rotation option, and that pitching prospect Hunter Harvey can become a starting candidate by midseason.

Chance Sisco has an advanced bat and Austin Wynns a steady mitt, but it might be the unknowns that determine which if either player sticks on the major league roster coming out of spring training.

Even if all that happens — and that’s a big if — they will still need more starting pitching contributors, and given that the club lacks major league experience, it might be best served going after a veteran free-agent pitcher who can provide 30 starts next season, whether that’s someone such as John Lackey or R.A. Dickey or even Chris Tillman, luring him from the shadows to slot into the back of the rotation on a one-year deal.

Dickey, who could retire at the age of 43 but still has innings in him from the lack of strain his knuckleball puts his arm, made 31 starts for the Atlanta Braves last year and has made 29 or more in each of the past seven seasons. Lackey started 30 games for the Cubs last year and has logged 29 or more starts in all five seasons since having Tommy John elbow reconstruction. And before last season’s struggles, Tillman averaged 32 starts in his previous four seasons.

The Orioles appear content to wait out the starting pitching market the way most other teams are doing, but with two weeks left before pitchers and catchers report, this could be the best time to make a play for a veteran starter. None of those above-mentioned candidates would save the Orioles rotation, but at the least they would give the team some starting experience it lacks.

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