The Orioles will break camp in March with five starting pitchers. They haven’t talked about the possibility of a six-man rotation, though the depth they’ve built allows for it.
They have the numbers, but who are the names?
Kyle Gibson is the one lock after signing for $10 million, with his placement being the only uncertainty.
A second veteran is expected to join him, but the Orioles keep watching candidates disappear from the free-agent market. The club made its video recruiting pitch to Noah Syndergaard, but he's going to the Dodgers on a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $13 million with $1.5 million in possible incentives.
The New York Post's Jon Heyman reported that Syndergaard had multi-year offers for more money elsewhere "but preferred one year in L.A."
Kyle Bradish posted a 2.76 ERA in his last eight starts. Dean Kremer registered a 2.25 ERA in August and a 3.21 ERA in his last seven games. Assumptions that they’ll be in the Opening Day rotation aren’t classified as bold, but Tyler Wells was the Orioles’ most consistent starter in the first half and No. 1 pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez has a spot waiting for him.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has mentioned the “very high likelihood” of Rodriguez being in the Opening Day rotation.
That’s six starters, and we haven’t accounted for Austin Voth, Spenser Watkins, DL Hall, Mike Baumann and Bruce Zimmermann.
Voth is out of minor league options. The Orioles tendered him a contract, and he seems like a solid choice to work in a swing man-type role.
Hall might be the most fascinating figure in camp.
The Orioles’ No. 2 pitching prospect isn’t a slam dunk to start for them, though he’ll receive every opportunity. He could move to the bullpen as a third left-hander with Cionel Pérez and Keegan Akin, or he could continue his development as a starter at Triple-A Norfolk and wait for his call.
Manager Brandon Hyde said at the Winter Meetings that the club hadn’t discussed Hall’s role.
“Probably right now if we go into spring, we'd build him up to be at least a multiple-inning guy,” Hyde said, “then we'll see what the rotation looks like, what the bullpen looks like there.”
Sounds like Hall as a reliever is at least on the table. It jibes with Elias’ comments at the Winter Meetings about the lower priority of adding a reliever due to having starters who could move to the bullpen.
Voth, Hall, Wells, Watkins, Zimmermann, Baumann. All of them fall into this category.
Scouts and executives from other organizations agree that Rodriguez is destined to be the staff ace. Not necessarily on March 30 in Boston, where the Orioles open their season, but it’s happening. He’s going to be No. 1, with plus pitches he commands across the board.
Hall also is held in high regard, but his eventual role is debatable. Half of the room says he’s going to be a great starter once he becomes more consistent with his command, the other half says he could be a dominant power arm in the ‘pen.
Both sides say it makes sense to try him first as a starter, and that’s what the Orioles are doing.
Hall allowed one run in 8 2/3 innings in his last eight appearances as a reliever. His feet are wet. That reasoning for the change no longer applies.
“DL, as we all know, has electric stuff,” director of player development Matt Blood said during a "MASN All Access" interview. “He’s a competitor, and just like most young pitchers, it’s about improving consistency of execution, and the better and better he gets at that, the more effective he’s going to be, and that will determine ultimately what role he falls into. But he has the ability to be as good as anyone.”
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