Starting the early talk about the rotation

Manny Machado will undergo surgery today at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles to repair a torn medial patellofemoral ligament in his left knee. I’ll beat the rush and pass along that it’s going to be a “successful” surgery and the time frame of a four- to six-month recovery period will remain unchanged.

Five months would put Machado in the middle of March, still enough time to get ready for opening day at Camden Yards. In the meantime, he can work on his upper-body strength.

Going back to Saturday’s “Wall to Wall Baseball” show on MASN, a fan asked for a projected five-man rotation to begin the 2014 season. Again, it’s too early. The Orioles may sign or trade for a starter. Scott Feldman and Jason Hammel are pending free agents.

Chris Tillman is almost certain to take the mound for the March 31 opener against the Red Sox. It would be pretty tough to unseat him as the staff ace, which he evolved into this year.

Don’t forget that Tillman wasn’t on the 25-man roster when the Orioles broke camp last spring. He came off the disabled list to start the fifth game of the season.

Talk about coming a long way.

For now, we can project Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris as part of the rotation. Re-signing Feldman or Hammel would complete it. Otherwise, it’s an outsider or one of the in-house candidates, including Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Steve Johnson and T.J. McFarland.

Britton is out of options and could be packaged in a trade this winter. Or he could receive one more chance in spring training, with the hope that everything clicks for him as it did for Tillman.

Feldman wants to stay with the Orioles and they’d like to keep him. Hammel could be a bargain, but my guess is he’s allowed to walk.

The Orioles won’t pick up Tsuyoshi Wada’s $5 million option for next season, but they could attempt to re-sign him at a significantly reduced rate and toss him into the mix. He’s already pocketed $8.15 million without throwing a single pitch for the Orioles.

This much is clear: The Orioles need someone else besides Tillman to give them 200-plus innings. No more coddling. No more concerns over guys wearing down. No more maneuvering to provide extra rest for multiple starters. It’s fine if one pitcher needs to be handled with care, but that’s it.

Gonzalez appeared in 30 games this season, making 28 starts and logging 171 1/3 innings. He’s sporting a career 4.28 ERA on four days rest and a 2.73 ERA on five.

The Orioles need Gonzalez to demonstrate that he can consistently work on normal rest and give them the desired results.

Gonzalez, 29, may be one of the better bargains in baseball when you consider that he made $502,000 last season and has a lifetime record of 20-12 with a 3.58 ERA in two major league seasons. He isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2015.

A 3.58 ERA will tee you up for a nice payday on the free agent market, but Gonzalez isn’t anywhere near it. He’s under team control and in the 2014 rotation unless something unforeseen happens between now and the opener.

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