The Orioles and the search for starting pitching

Here is the question a lot of fans have been asking lately: Will the Orioles have enough starting pitching to continue their good season, to stay in contention to the end?

Despite the O's pitching back-to-back shutouts over the weekend in Atlanta, their rotation ERA of 4.54 ranks just 10th in the AL and is behind the league average of 4.35.

The Orioles got off to an excellent start with their starters this year and on May 5, they were 18-9 with a rotation ERA of 3.38. But in the 41 games since, that number is 5.34. Still the Orioles have managed to go 21-20 in those games.

The Orioles will likely need to do better than 5.34 to stay in contention for a playoff spot. There are rumors swirling that the club is actively seeking starting pitching help and the club figures to have its name linked to several starting pitchers over the next few weeks.

Per usual, though, there will be many teams looking for starting pitchers as the trade deadline gets closer and the price to get it could be high. It might be a price the Orioles either can't or won't be willing to pay.

Meanwhile, here is what is going on currently with the rotation at Triple-A Norfolk:

* Jason Berken is 0-1 with a 2.47 ERA in 13 starts and .262 batting average against. How has he managed to have just one decision in 13 starts?

* Miguel Gonzalez got the start last night for the Tides and gave up four hits and four runs (two earned) in 3 2/3 innings. He is 1-2 with a 2.11 ERA and .169 batting average against in five Tides starts. He can get overlooked some when looking at pitchers that could be recalled to the O's rotation. He shouldn't.

* Jamie Moyer, who starts tonight, is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in two Norfolk starts. Over 12 innings he has not walked anyone with 12 strikeouts.

* Zach Britton is 1-1 with a 6.89 ERA and .338 batting average against in three Norfolk starts amid talk that his velocity is a tick or two below average for him right now and his command has been off.

* Chris Tillman has pitched to a 3-2 record and 2.56 ERA over his last five starts, giving up just 17 hits in 31 2/3 innings. Over his past 10 starts, his ERA is 3.13.

Here is how I rank the five from most to least likely to join the Orioles at some point soon:

Moyer
Gonzalez
Tillman
Britton
Berken

There are some in baseball that wonder, of course, if Moyer has anything left. At the same time, they think with his experience, guile and guts alone, he could come up and give the Orioles six innings allowing three or four runs and keep them in games. If Moyer was going to Norfolk for two or three starts, a decision could be coming soon as tonight will be start three.

Gonzalez moves up the leaderboard with his impressive pitching while with the Orioles recently, and Tillman's current run of solid pitching has to be helping his cause.

The search for starting pitching almost seems to never end. Do the O's have enough to make it through 162 games and stay in the race or will they need to add? If they do add, will the help come from within or outside of the organization?

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