Trying to sort out upcoming rotation battles in camp

One thing the Orioles did in adding right-hander Kyle Gibson and lefty Cole Irvin this offseason is replace one innings-eater starting pitcher - Jordan Lyles - with two of them. We’ll see how they fare with the Orioles, but we can say it’s pretty clear the club would love to see those two take the ball about a total of 60 times combined in 2023.

If they do, and if they provide some quality innings and outings along the way, the Orioles will be well on their way to getting more starter innings this coming season. Their starting pitchers averaged 5.0 innings per start last year, ranking ahead of only three other American League clubs. Houston led the way, averaging 5.9 innings.

So there is room for improvement in that area.

With Lyles and his 32 starts and 4.42 ERA out of the rotation, the Orioles head to spring training in less than two weeks with six pitchers that made 20 or more big league starts in 2022. Here are the six, ranked by ERA:

3.23 – Dean Kremer (21 starts)

3.98 – Cole Irvin (30)

4.25 – Tyler Wells (23)

4.70 – Spenser Watkins (20)

4.90 – Kyle Bradish (23)

5.05 – Kyle Gibson (31)

There were just 43 big league pitchers that made 30 or more starts last season. So not even two per team, on average, and the Orioles have two now in Gibson and Irvin. There were also just 43 pitchers last year who recorded 15 or more quality starts, and the Orioles have two in Gibson and Irvin, who had 15 each. Lyles led the O’s in quality starts last year with 13.

By the way, the Orioles played .683 ball when they got a QS last year, going 28-13. I have been a big believer in getting quality starts, as my experience indicates you win a lot of those games. But the Orioles starters produced just 41 in 2022, fourth-fewest in the majors and second-fewest in the AL, ahead of only Minnesota. By comparison, Houston led the big leagues with 94 quality starts, with San Diego next at 84 and then Seattle next with 79.

So how will the O’s rotation shake out and what will the starting five look like come opening day?

Great question, and I see it this way: I have six pitchers very likely to make the rotation, realizing that only five can make it. Unless the O’s surprise us and use a six-man, which I would consider very unlikely.

I have my list of those six in two groups of three. The first group I have includes Gibson, Irvin and Grayson Rodriguez in a list of “almost sure, barring an injury, to make it.” I am that confident that Rodriguez is ready and that executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias will be true to his word when he says it is very likely Rodriguez will be in the rotation from the start. Things can change, but I see these three in.

The “best of the rest" group, a group of three that seems very likely to have a leg up - maybe a big leg up - on the other hopefuls includes Tyler Wells, Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer, because they threw well last year. They showed nice potential and are strong rotation candidates. One of these six could get pushed to the bullpen, and yes, it is possible Rodriguez starts in Triple-A. That one would be a real surprise, it says here.

We can list six or seven others who could get a spring look and will be almost certain to pitch for the club at some point during the coming year. These include John Means, Bruce Zimmermann, Spenser Watkins, Austin Voth, Mike Baumann, DL Hall and Drew Rom.

During the Birdland Caravan kickoff event last night at Bel Air High School, Elias did not rule out adding another starter to compete in camp, but also said he likes the rotation depth of the current candidates.

"In terms of the starting rotation, the thing we feel best about with this group is the numbers, the depth," he said. "We’re going to have nine, 10, 11 starters on our 40-man roster when we go into spring training. I feel that’s a good number to pick from, and we’ll keep monitoring opportunities the next few weeks.”

For more on last night's event in Bel Air, click here.

And click here to see, via O's Twitter, the kid named Nolan who was a show stopper last night.

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