Taking the Orioles rotation for another spin

While the Orioles wait for starting pitchers to drop into their laps like acorns, the majority of fans think the team would be nuts to bring back anyone from last year’s rotation who remains on the free agent market.

This is an unscientific poll. I’m basing my observations on comments attached to the blog and appearing on my Twitter feed, and impromptu conversations in restaurants, grocery stores and gyms. Fans don’t want to be reminded how the starters posted a 5.70 ERA, the worst in franchise history. And if they’ve done the math, they know that the four departed - Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jiménez, Wade Miley and Jeremy Hellickson - combined for a 6.61 ERA.

This isn’t a warm and fuzzy memory. It leaves fans cold and prickly.

Tillman is the one realistic returnee. The sides have talked and there’s a sense of mutual interest. Manager Buck Showalter made it clear that he expects Tillman to have a bounceback season and he’d like for it to transpire in Baltimore.

tillman-white-2017-side.jpgThe doubters, as I’ve pointed out, cite Tillman’s inability to regain his touch last summer despite making 19 starts and five relief appearances. They don’t believe that an abnormal offseason and spring training would carry through an entire summer and leave him with a career-high 7.84 ERA and 1.892 WHIP. Only a minor league deal makes sense to them.

An Orioles official checked with Miley immediately after the season to gauge possible interest in a one-year deal, according to a source. Miley seemed to indicate that he’d be more comfortable returning to the National League, though it’s easy to lay out a plan in October. Sticking to it with pitchers and catchers set to report is another matter.

I haven’t heard of any attempts to negotiate with Hellickson and there hasn’t been a shred of interest in re-signing Jiménez. I don’t recall hearing any teams linked to him.

Jiménez is directly blamed for the Orioles’ refusal this winter to offer deals beyond three years to free agent pitchers. They stuck with him throughout his club-record four-year, $50 million contract. He gave them a 5.22 ERA, 1.496 WHIP and multiple demotions to the bullpen.

Left every five days to explain Jiménez’s dramatic swings in performance, dominant stuff in one start trumped by early and ugly exits, Showalter could only point to the veteran’s durability. He kept taking the ball.

What he did with it seems to be keeping the Orioles from acting more aggressively in filling out their rotation beyond Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

A team subjected to constant weather-related delays isn’t known for making it rain. The Orioles don’t normally spend big on pitching. The one time they went out on a limb for Jiménez, it snapped in half and produced a painful fall. They stuck the landing ... with their heads.

The Orioles aren’t ignoring guys like Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn despite the financial limitations. One person in the organization said the club is “talking to all of them” to stay involved just in case demands are lowered.

That’s the only way it’s got any chance of happening.

* I wrote yesterday that the Orioles signed left-handers David Holmberg and Élvis Araujo to minor league deals and assigned them to the minor league complex at Twin Lakes Park. If Holmberg sounds familiar, he made a June 15 start against the Orioles last season at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.

Holmberg allowed one run and four hits in 4 1/3 innings in the White Sox’s 5-2 victory. Anthony Swarzak replaced him, worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings and was credited with the win.

Tillman started for the Orioles and allowed five runs and 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings to raise his ERA to 8.07.

Araujo made relief appearances in three consecutive games against the Orioles in 2015 while pitching for the Phillies as part of a home-and-homes series and allowed one earned run (two total) over 2 2/3 innings.

Shameless plug alert: I’m joining Sara Perlman for “MASN All Access” today around 3 p.m. and Jim Hunter for the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” from 6-7 p.m. at the Orioles Grille inside the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel.

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