Is there still a chance to see Jim Johnson in the rotation?

With the offseason additions of pitchers Dana Eveland and Tsuyoshi Wada, the Orioles don’t seem to have any shortage of candidates to make their opening day starting rotation.

Since they have not added anyone to the back end of the bullpen, many are assuming that pretty much means Jim Johnson will stay as a late-inning reliever, likely the closer, and not get a shot to be a starter this year.

Since we have not heard an official word from the team on this, I wonder how Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette are feeling about Johnson’s 2012 role these days.

The Orioles have certainly added some quantity to their rotation, but the bigger issue, after a MLB-worst 5.39 rotation ERA last year, is about the quality that is really there.

If Johnson would be one of the top five starting pitchers on the team, and I think he would, wouldn’t the Orioles be better served trying him there? Johnson has some real talent in that right arm, but are the Orioles using it in the best way possible if he only throws 15 or so pitches per outing?

This would, of course, weaken the bullpen, but far too many times last year the team was beaten by what happened in innings one through six. Plus, a good pitcher in the rotation is worth more to any club than a good pitcher in the bullpen.

The Orioles are still looking for starting pitching. I wonder if they have ruled out looking in their own bullpen for help.

When I interviewed Matt Hobgood recently he told me about a trip he made to Oklahoma for a couple of weeks in October. He wanted to work out with pitchers Bobby and Dylan Bundy and see how the brothers handled their workouts.

“I went out for a couple of weeks,” Hobgood said. “They invited me to come out and work with them. Just wanted to see what they are doing. There are some things they showed me, workout-wise. Dylan’s got a pretty good punching bag routine that I picked up for shoulder strength. They have good workout facilities there and I enjoyed being out there.

“Dylan is a good kid. I saw him throw every time out in instructional league and his first outing the guy was 95 to 98. He works hard. His program is a little bit different, but it works for him. You have to find what works for you,” he said.

Hobgood also said he has gotten to know Toronto Blue Jays lefty Ricky Romero through workouts at Athletes Performance Institute in California. He said Romero has been helpful to him.

“He’s been somebody to help me know what I have to do and has given me some good advice for someone that is kind of a franchise player now. He’s helped me a lot with the mental side of things. He had some struggles in his first few years,” Hobgood said of Romero, who went 15-11 with an ERA of 2.92 in 2011.

The Orioles have not yet announced their minor league coaching staffs for next season. But when they do, one possible change could be that all farm clubs are expected to have three coaches, counting the manager.

Last year, Orioles’ clubs in Bowie, Aberdeen and the Gulf Coast League had a fourth coach. The traditional minor league setup is for a manager, a pitching coach and hitting coach for a staff of three.

Another possible small change would be where the roving minor league instructors work with all the farm teams in the system. In the past, the O’s have used certain roving instructors to work more with the higher levels and certain instructors for the lower level clubs. This plan would put a little more emphasis on the roving instructors who would get to work with every team in the organization.

I have heard that Dan Duquette may prefer to have his roving minor league instructors see all the clubs and even spend some time with the Dominican Summer League team, as well.

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