More on the rotation

Let’s just say for a moment that the Orioles don’t trade Jeremy Guthrie. Let’s say they acquire a veteran starter at the Winter Meetings. And let’s also say they change Jim Johnson’s role again and move him into the rotation.

I’m counting three starters, though my math is sketchy.

Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton figure to be penciled into the rotation. It would take a total collapse in spring training for them to be optioned before opening day.

Now I’m counting five, which completes the rotation - except that I haven’t mentioned Tommy Hunter. We really have six.

There’s no way to know for sure on Nov. 26 how this is going to play out, but the Orioles should have a nice collection of starters down at Triple-A Norfolk.

We absolutely cannot dismiss left-hander Brian Matusz, who won 10 games in 2010. He’ll report to spring training in February in top physical condition - he’s resuming workouts with Brady Anderson next week - and will try to avoid a return trip to the minors.

Chris Tillman is a young pitcher that the Orioles would be willing to trade, but he also could return to the Tides. He’s running out of chances, even at such a young age.

We can’t forget Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken, who will compete for spots in the Orioles’ rotation or bullpen, but could be starters in Norfolk.

Rick VandenHurk is out of minor league options, but that also was true last spring and he ended up at Norfolk after clearing waivers. Tim Bascom, the organization’s minor league Pitcher of the Year, could move up from Double-A Bowie if he isn’t taken in the Rule 5 draft. Steve Johnson, also eligible for the draft, ended the 2011 season at Norfolk after dominating Eastern League hitters.

It’s also possible that the Orioles sign another batch of six-year minor league free agents to provide depth in the upper levels of the system. Remember Ryan Drese and Mitch Atkins last winter? And executive vice president Dan Duquette might not be done tapping into the international market.

Duquette will be looking for pitching at the winter meetings, but he also could be prepared to trade some of it.

Shameless plug alert: It’s Saturday, which means “Wall to Wall Baseball” airs from 11 a.m.-noon on MASN.

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