Starting to wonder about the rotation

Yesterday, we kicked around ideas for second base. Today, we'll ponder whether the Orioles need to upgrade the rotation or play the hands - right and left - that they've been dealt.

The Orioles' starters posted an ERA under 4.00 after Aug. 1 and a 2.00 ERA in the playoffs. The pitching staff finished with a 3.90 ERA that ranked 14th in the majors. Their 3.73 ERA after the All-Star break tied them with the Giants for 11th.

The staff's 3.35 ERA in September ranked eighth in the majors, and the Orioles were 19-9.

"We pitched well and things really came together right after the break. I'm really proud of them," pitching coach Rick Adair said after the Game 5 loss to the Yankees in the American League Division Series.

"A lot of maturity and a lot of development. They've just really grown up as people and I'm really proud of them."

The starters posted a 4.42 ERA that ranked 21st, ahead of the Padres, Cubs, Astros, Blue Jays, Royals, Red Sox, Indians, Twins and Rockie. Yes, their bullpen is what really separated them from the pack. The relievers had a 3.00 ERA that ranked fifth behind the Reds, Braves, Rays and Athletics.

Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman would seem to be locks for the 2013 rotation. Right?

The Orioles could bring in another starter via free agency or trade. They could sort through their inventory, which includes Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz and Tsuyoshi Wada, who's recovering from ligament-reconstructive surgery on his left elbow. They could attempt to re-sign Joe Saunders, who's a pending free agent.

Here's the list of potential free-agent starters, courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.com:

Scott Baker (31) - $9.25MM club option
Erik Bedard (34)
Joe Blanton (32)
Bartolo Colon (40)
Aaron Cook (34)
Kevin Correia (32)
Jorge De La Rosa (32) - $11MM player option
Ryan Dempster (36)
R.A. Dickey (38) - $5MM club option
Scott Feldman (29) - $9.25MM club option
Jeff Francis (32)
Gavin Floyd (30) - $9.5MM club option
Freddy Garcia (37)
Zack Greinke (28)
Jeremy Guthrie (34)
Rich Harden (31)
Dan Haren (32) - $15.5MM club option
Roberto Hernandez (32) - $6MM club option
Tim Hudson (37) - $9MM club option
Edwin Jackson (29)
Hiroki Kuroda (38)
Francisco Liriano (29)
Kyle Lohse (34)
Derek Lowe (40)
Paul Maholm (31) - $6.5MM club option
Shaun Marcum (31)
Jason Marquis (34)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (32)
Brandon McCarthy (29)
Kevin Millwood (38)
Jamie Moyer (50)
Roy Oswalt (35)
Carl Pavano (37)
Jake Peavy (31) - $22MM club option
Anibal Sanchez (29)
Jonathan Sanchez (30)
Ervin Santana (30) - $13MM club option
Joe Saunders (32)
James Shields (31) - $9MM club option
Carlos Villanueva (29)
Chien-Ming Wang (33)
Kip Wells (36)
Randy Wolf (36)
Chris Young (34)
Carlos Zambrano (32)

The Rays may decline to pick up Shields' option. His name jumps out on this list.

Moyer's name jumps out because of the (50) next to it.

Forget about Wolf. He needs a second Tommy John surgery. Forget about Greinke. He's a big-ticket item and the Orioles aren't going to pony up the cash and years necessary to sign him.

The Orioles did their research on Jackson last winter and weren't comfortable with him.

It's conceivable that Dylan Bundy and/or Kevin Gausman could be in the rotation at some point during the 2013 season. Gausman, having pitched at LSU, is considered to be a little ahead of Bundy, but they both project as potential No. 1 starters.

Note: The Red Sox have worked out a trade with the Blue Jays that enables John Farrell to become their next manager, according to multiple reports. Orioles third base coach DeMarlo Hale interviewed for the job last week.

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