Do the Orioles need a left-hander in their rotation?

The Orioles used eight starting pitchers this season, including rookies Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson, who made their major league debuts, and veteran Bud Norris, who eventually was sent to the bullpen and designated for assignment.

Wei-Yin Chen was the lone left-hander of the group and he may leave as a free agent this winter.

Should the Orioles replace him with another southpaw? Can they afford to be left with only righties next year?

They still are reluctant to return Brian Matusz to the rotation, preferring to use him more as a lefty specialist. The former first-round pick held left-handed batters to a .186 average this season, while right-handers hit .244. Right-handers hit .277 last season, .302 in 2013, .327 in 2012 and .387 in 2011.

He’s trending in the right direction.

The Orioles seemed to hold open tryouts for starters in 2011, the year before Chen’s arrival. The roll call included Brad Bergesen (12 starts), Chris Jakubauskas (six), Jo-Jo Reyes (five), Mitch Atkins (three) and Rick VandenHurk (two). The rotation also contained left-handers Matusz (12 starts) and Zach Britton (28).

Props if you remember Atkins.

Matusz made 32 starts in 2010, tying Jeremy Guthrie for the team lead.

The Orioles broke camp in 2009 with Guthrie, Koji Uehara, Alfredo Simon, left-hander Mark Hendrickson and Adam Eaton in the rotation. Again, they had at least one southpaw. Matusz, Hendrickson and Rich Hill combined for 32 starts.

The 2008 rotation included left-handers Garrett Olson (26 starts) and Brian Burres (22). Another southpaw, Chris Waters, made 11 starts. Adam Loewen made only four, but he started the fourth game of the season.

Erik Bedard was the opening day starter in 2007, the first left-hander given the honor since Jimmy Key in 1997. He went 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts. Burres made 17 starts.

Bedard went 15-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 33 starts in 2006. Loewen made 19 starts and Bruce Chen made 12. Props if you remember that lefty John Halama started one game.

Chen-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgChen made 32 starts in 2005 and Bedard made 24. Props if you remember that left-hander Eric DuBose made three.

Among the Orioles’ pitchers in 2004, Bedard made 26 starts, DuBose made 14 and Matt Riley made 13. Chen made seven. Props if you remember that left-hander John Parrish had one start among his 56 appearances.

Left-hander Omar Daal made 17 starts in 2003, DuBose made 10 and Damian Moss made nine. Daal was the No. 2 starter breaking camp because times were tough.

Sean Douglass wasn’t left-handed, but props if you remember that he appeared in two games in relief.

The 2002 pitching staff included five left-handers - Bedard, DuBose, B.J. Ryan, Buddy Groom and Yorkis Perez - and none of them got into the rotation. The top five starters were right-handers Lopez, Sidney Ponson, Scott Erickson, Jason Johnson and Travis Driskill. John Stephens made 11 starts and Calvin Maduro - now a scout for the Orioles - made 10.

I had a point and here it is: The Orioles don’t normally break camp without a left-handed starter and they usually trot out a few southpaws at some point during the season.

They also leaned heavily to the right in 2001, with lefty Chuck McElroy making five starts and Parrish making one. Props if you remember that Groom led the team in saves with 11. Willis Roberts, Mike Trombley and Ryan Kohlmeier each had six.

The Orioles also weren’t concerned about left-handers in their 2000 rotation, with Parrish (eight) and McElroy (two) combining for 10 starts. Nor did they care in 1999 with a rotation consisting of right-handers Erickson, Ponson, Johnson, Mike Mussina and Juan Guzman. Left-hander Doug Johns made five starts and Riley made three.

Props if you remember right-hander Brian Falkenborg’s two relief appearances. Heck, props also if you remember any of Alberto Reyes’ 27.

Key made only 11 starts among his 25 appearances in 1998, but he accumulated 34 starts during the wire-to-wire season in 1997.

Props if you remember that lefty Rick Krivda made 10 starts in ‘97, or how right-hander Shawn Boskie recorded the only save of his nine-year career.

Anyway, if the Orioles aren’t willing to return Matusz to the rotation next season - and they’d have to tender him a contract, which isn’t a certainty - they’d most likely go outside the organization for a left-handed replacement for Chen. They kept Chris Jones in Triple-A this summer. They don’t seem committed to making T.J. McFarland a full-time starter or removing Britton from the closer role.

Chen could land a four- or five-year deal, and while the Orioles want to re-sign him, they figure to excuse themselves from a bidding war. The other left-handed options in free agency may leave you underwhelmed.

Mark Buehrle will be 37 in March and he’s contemplating retirement. He works fast on the mound, but he’s been slow to make a decision.

The Orioles got an up-close look at the new Rich Hill in Boston, but how much stock do you put into four starts? How much money do you sink into them?

They had some interest in Scott Kazmir a few years ago and it could resurface. J.A. Happ is a 33-year-old journeyman, but he went 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts with the Pirates this season while making $6.7 million.

I’d be surprised if the Orioles weren’t interested in Happ.

Chris Capuano, 37, also is a free agent. He went 0-4 with a 7.97 ERA and 1.820 WHIP in 22 games with the Yankees this year, including four starts.

I’d pass, creating the tightest spiral you’ve ever seen.

Saving the best for last, David Price is the No. 1 free agent pitcher on the market and he’s going to do more than break the bank. He’s going to turn it into a pile of dust. I know how much the Orioles would like to have him and I know he’d like to pitch in Baltimore, but money talks and he’s speaking a different language.

So do the Orioles go into the 2016 season without a left-handed starter? Is it necessary for them to have one?

At least it would make facing the Blue Jays a little less complicated if they stay with a right-handed rotation.

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