Rookies rate highly in Baltimore

The Baseball Writers' Association of America will reveal its Rookies of the Year tonight, and the Orioles are merely spectators for this award.

The Angels' Mike Trout will be the runaway winner in the American League, followed by the Athletics' Yoenis Cespedes and the Rangers' Yu Darvish. There's no drama.

The National League finalists are the Reds' Todd Frazier, the Nationals' Bryce Harper and the Diamondbacks' Wade Miley. The guess here is Harper wins the award.

The Orioles don't have a finalist, but rookies played critical roles in their run to the playoffs.

Where would they have been without Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Manny Machado? Steve Johnson went 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games. If nothing else, they deserve some in-house recognition.

Chen and Gonzalez rate among the best moves made by executive vice president Dan Duquette. Chen showed the commitment to signing international talent. Gonzalez showed the commitment to adding depth in the upper levels of the minors and giving manager Buck Showalter more choices than previously offered to him.

You can pencil both starters into the 2013 rotation. Chen was the only double-digit winner, going 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA in 32 games. Gonzalez went 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 18 appearances, including 15 starts, and required an extra layer of clothing because of the ice water in his veins.

Chen held the Yankees to one earned run (two total) in 6 1/3 innings in Game 2 of the Division Series. Gonzalez held them to one run in seven innings in Game 3, walking none and striking out eight, and he would have picked up the win if not for Raul Ibanez's home run off closer Jim Johnson that tied the score in the ninth.

machado-shhhh-sidebar.jpgMachado, who homered in Game 3, won't be eligible for the award next season. He's no longer considered a rookie, but he's assured of being the opening day third baseman in 2013.

He's not pushing J.J. Hardy to second or third. Not yet.

Steve Johnson could earn a spot in the rotation, be used in long relief or start for Triple-A Norfolk. There's no defined role in November.

His chances of making the opening day rotation will take a severe hit if the Orioles sign another starter, considering that Chen, Gonzalez, Jason Hammel and Chris Tillman figure to occupy four of the spots. Competition also will come from the likes of Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter. It's already getting crowded in here.

Speaking of rookies, left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada will qualify as one next season if he's finally able to pitch. He may not be ready for the opener as he continues to recover from ligament-reconstructive surgery on his elbow, and how he's used remains a mystery. The Orioles signed him to be a starter, but he could move to the bullpen.

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