Taking Orioles rotation for another spin and playing the numbers game

The next story posted here will have a Sarasota dateline.

Get used to it.

Orioles pitchers and catchers report today, with the first workout unfolding on Thursday, coinciding with the beginning of media access. Players will take their physicals and hit the fields. The sounds of baseball will puncture the silence.

Bring on the suspense.

The start button will be pressed for the march toward another division title and much deeper dive into the playoffs. To be one-and-done again will be unacceptable. To simply contend will be setting goals way too low.

“We’ve got a young team with even more experience,” first baseman Ryan Mountcastle said at the Birdland Caravan, “so we’re all super excited.”

MASN’s Tom Davis, a baseball historian who knows as much about the Orioles’ past as anyone you’ll meet, asked me recently whether the 2024 rotation could be as good as the 1971 group that had four 20-game winners. The only prediction I’ll make is that the Orioles won’t have four 20-game winners this year.

The ’71 rotation was more experienced, with more track records and less talk about potential and ceilings. But Corbin Burnes, Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and John Means can be a dominant quartet, and the unit should be deeper with Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells and Cole Irvin.

“I just want to be the best that I can possibly be,” Wells said at the Caravan, “and so as I continue to learn more about myself and learn more about the game and what everyone kind of needs out of me and what the team needs at that given specific time, then it helps me to be able to prepare myself. It’s just a constant learning process.”

Mike Cuellar made 38 starts in 1971, Jim Palmer and Pat Dobson 37, and Dave McNally 30. Grant Jackson was next with nine among his 29 appearances. Dave Leonhard made six and Dave Boswell one.

Nine Orioles started games last summer, led by Kyle Gibson with 33. Gibson signed with the Cardinals. Burnes made 28, 33 and 32 over the past three seasons with the Brewers, and his 193 2/3 innings last year would have led the Orioles.

Burnes totaled 202 innings in 2022. No Orioles starter has reached 200 since Chris Tillman’s 207 1/3 in 2014.

Rodriguez was limited to 23 starts and 122 innings last year because he didn’t make the team out of spring training and was optioned again after 10 appearances. He should be a full-timer this season.

“I learned a lot,” Rodriguez said at the Birdland Caravan. “I think there’s a whole list of things. But really just kind of how to navigate the big leagues. Some big stadiums, some big moments. Some big names that you face. Just kind of learning how to keep all of that under control and go out there and play nine innings.”

Teams make adjustments to young starters. Rodriguez has to counter.

“That’s a game that’s always going to be going, trying to outsmart the opponent,” he said. “But really just keeping it simple, taking it game by game, start by start, inning by inning. Just going out there and living in the pitch, focusing on that one pitch at a time.”

Means came back from Tommy John surgery to make four starts. He’ll blow past that total. And he could be as good or better than anyone else.

To repeat a post over the weekend from MLB Network, which American League rotation are you taking between the Orioles and the following teams?

1. The Mariners with Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Bryce Miller, Bryan Woo

2. The Yankees with Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes, Clarke Schmidt

3. The Astros with Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Hunter Brown, José Urquidy

4. The Blue Jays with Kevin Gausman, José Berríos, Chris Bassitt, Yusei Kikuchi, Alek Manoah

* Reliever Jacob Webb changed his uniform number from 66 to 71. Infielder Liván Soto will wear 66 in camp.

Only six Orioles have worn 71, most recently pitcher Logan Gillaspie in 2022-23. The group also includes pitchers Zack Burdi (2021), Conner Greene (2021), Matt Wotherspoon (2019) and Oliver Drake (2015-17), and outfielder L.J. Hoes (2012).

You’re welcome.

Will Jackson Holliday ditch No. 87 if he makes the club?

Holliday wore No. 18 with Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. Manager Brandon Hyde owns it with the Orioles.

Maybe Holliday can take 12, which belonged to Adam Frazier before he signed with the Royals. Holliday wore it during the Perfect Game National Showcase in 2021.

I’d suggest 1, last worn by infielder Richie Martin in 2022.


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