Taking the rotation for another spin

The week began with me still convinced that the Orioles would sign or trade for a veteran starter before opening day to occupy a spot in the middle or back end of the rotation. And because of this, I’ve been hesitant to go all-in while discussing camp competitions and ranking the favorites.

News broke on Thursday that the Orioles signed right-hander Nate Karns to a one-year deal guaranteeing $800,000. Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias stated at FanFest that pitching was the top priority. Karns is proof, but more pitching could be on the way.

You can never have enough of it.

Karns-Throws-Royals-Sidebar.jpgKarns definitely will compete for a spot in the rotation.

“Karns is a big talent,” Elias said. “His pure stuff and numbers really excite us. He has missed significant time the last couple of years, which is the reason he was available to us on this type of deal in the first place, and I know he’s fired up about the opportunity we have here for him to bounce back.

“We’re really hoping he can help shore up our rotation and deepen our staff in general.”

A couple of veterans have dropped off the market in recent days, including Jeremy Hellickson, who signed Wednesday with the Nationals for a guaranteed $1.3 million. I can’t imagine that he was a consideration for the Orioles after he made 10 starts for them in 2017 and went 2-6 with a 6.97 ERA, 1.277 WHIP and -0.8 WAR in 51 2/3 innings.

Hellickson wanted no part of the American League East and wisely got back to the National League, where the Nationals gladly will take his five innings and turn over games to their bullpen.

Anyway, the Orioles could use a veteran to consume innings and ease the strain on some young arms who might not be ready for the major league workload. And that veteran could be flipped at the non-waiver deadline.

Recycling also is a good idea in sports.

Karns didn’t pitch last season, has struggled to stay healthy and doesn’t fit the mold of an innings-eater. But there’s upside and he could be a steal, especially under team control through 2020. And he’s a strikeout guy, averaging 9.3 per nine innings, on a staff that could use one.

David Hess feels like the frontrunner if there’s only one spot open, but we’re talking early odds here. Yefry Ramírez would be nipping at his heels. And there’s Jimmy Yacabonis if manager Brandon Hyde regards him as a starter, and left-handers Josh Rogers and John Means.

Luis Ortiz will join the scrum and his conditioning will be a hot topic in camp. It might be too soon for Dillon Tate, but don’t dismiss him. Hunter Harvey needs to be healthy and on a roll before the Orioles consider him.

Hyde hasn’t said anything about using an “opener,” but he’s going to field the question in Sarasota.

Here’s the updated list of available free agent pitchers, courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.com:

Brett Anderson
Clay Buchholz
Bartolo Colon
Doug Fister
Yovani Gallardo
Gio Gonzalez
Miguel González
Edwin Jackson
Dallas Keuchel
Ervin Santana
James Shields
Chris Tillman

It’s understandable if you’re feeling underwhelmed.

Forget about Keuchel for financial reasons. Others on the list seem to have very little left in the tank and might not provide a better alternative to the in-house candidates. Should a rebuilding team hand the ball to, say, Bartolo Colon or Edwin Jackson rather than one of its prospects?

Doug Fister has been on the club’s radar for multiple winters. He’s like Gavin Floyd, always rumored but never acquired.

Would you sign another veteran or just open up the competition to the youngsters?

Note: Cal Ripken Jr. issued the following statement on the passing of Frank Robinson:

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my friend and former manager. My thoughts today are with Frank’s family. Frank wasn’t just an all-time great Oriole, but one of the greatest ball players in history. He was a legendary figure and a trailblazer. He will be missed by all of us Orioles fans, but he certainly will never be forgotten.”

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