The rotation, the bullpen and the questions surrounding both

SARASOTA, Fla. - Less than two weeks remain before opening day and there are still so many questions regarding the composition of the Orioles’ 25-man roster.

One complication arises from the one game remaining on first baseman Chris Davis’ suspension. Manager Buck Showalter seems intrigued by the idea of carrying a player who’s out of minor league options, then attempting to sneak him through waivers while other teams already have set their rosters.

Could this be a strategy with Jimmy Paredes or David Lough?

Paredes collected another hit yesterday and scored a run, but his averaged actually dipped below .400.

gausman-pitching-glasses-orange-sidebar.jpgKevin Gausman may end up in the bullpen to begin the season, which isn’t the worst news of the spring. It’s just being treated as such by some fans.

Gausman is going to get plenty of starts for the Orioles this season. Count on it. But they also want to monitor his innings again early in the season, which can more easily be done in relief or Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation.

Gausman is a weapon in the ‘pen. The season and his confidence won’t erode if he’s not immediately injected into the rotation.

The Orioles are paying Ubaldo Jimenez nearly $39 million for three seasons and need him to be successful as a starter. They aren’t known for shoving large sums of money at free agent pitchers. It might be a good idea if this one works out, if you know what I mean.

That’s not to say that poor spring results should be ignored, but Jimenez tossed five scoreless innings against the Pirates in his last outing and has walked one batter in his last 13 innings. There’s no need to root against him in order to get Gausman in the rotation. The Orioles are much better off if Jimenez is mowing down hitters after a nightmarish 2014.

Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris are free agents following the season and could price themselves out of Baltimore. Chen, as you may recall, is represented by Scott Boras. Enjoy the starter logjam while it lasts.

(Maybe a new one will form next spring with the likes of Dylan Bundy, Hunter Harvey, Tyler Wilson, etc. But that’s another blog entry for another time.)

I get the sense that Gausman is more likely to go to the bullpen than Miguel Gonzalez if a starter changes roles and avoids being sent down. Again, it wouldn’t be a permanent assignment. Again, this sort of depth is a wonderful thing and should be celebrated. And yet, I had one guy on Twitter say Jimenez’s last start was the worst thing that could happen to the Orioles.

Because he was outstanding? Really?

I’ve covered enough Orioles teams with putrid retreads filling out the rotation. Heck, they were plopped in the middle of it. What’s happening this spring - and that’s making the bold assumption that Jimenez doesn’t revert - is nothing but positive.

The Orioles won’t need a fifth starter during the first week of the season and could temporarily carry eight relievers, but that’s another headache. The bullpen already is crowded and that’s without Gausman or Gonzalez.

Matusz-throwing-white.jpgWith Brian Matusz garnering so much attention from outside the organization, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s traded before April. 6. Then we can debate whether they should have held onto the former first-round pick who’s allowed one run, walked none and struck out 12 in 11 1/3 innings.

Let’s say for now that Matusz, Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter, Wesley Wright and Brad Brach are breaking camp with the team. Carry a Rule 5 pick and we’re up to seven relievers. Put Gausman or Gonzalez in the ‘pen and that’s eight. Put two starters in there while not needing a No. 5 for the first week and...

I haven’t included T.J. McFarland or Ryan Webb, the latter being out of options. So are Brach, Matusz and Hunter, by the way. This isn’t the most flexible bullpen in terms of players being eligible to ride the Triple-A shuttle.

No wonder teams in need of pitching are sniffing around the Orioles. Times sure have changed around here.

It’s nothing but positive.

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