Updating the Orioles’ rotation competition

The rumblings yesterday morning that the Orioles made a roster move were followed by an announcement that they signed pitcher Kohl Stewart to a major league contract and immediate thoughts about him competing for a rotation spot.

Anybody with starting experience, at whichever level, is going to be thrust into the mix.

Do the Orioles have their desired eight candidates heading into spring training, a number agreed upon by executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde at the Winter Meetings?

I’m guessing that it’s too early for such a proclamation.

We haven’t reached the end of December and the Orioles are bound to pick up at least one veteran in the Nate Karns or Dan Straily mold - with the obvious desire for better results.

Left-hander John Means and right-handers Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski can be penciled into the rotation, the first two absolute locks if healthy. Wojciechowski would have to be a total disaster in camp to pitch his way out of it.

Rule 5 picks Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker will be auditioned, with the bullpen fallback options for two pitchers who can’t be optioned without passing through waivers and being offered back to their former organizations.

David Hess remains under consideration and Elias said left-hander Keegan Akin, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, will be given a chance.

The Orioles don’t want to push Akin past Triple-A Norfolk simply because there’s a need on the major league club. It goes against everything they’ve preached related to the rebuild and how to handle their prospects. But he’s got to be lumped into the eight at this stage of the offseason.

Stewart Throws Twin Sidebar.jpgThe placement of odds is compromised by the situation. Stewart should be a long shot based on his 6.39 ERA and 1.461 WHIP in nine games with the Twins, only two of them starts. He keeps the ball in the park, averaging 0.5 home runs allowed per nine innings in the minors, but he strikes out only 6.6 and the Orioles like their minor leaguers to miss bats.

Stewart can’t be dismissed, however, as long as the rotation is thinner than communion wafers and the Orioles aren’t in win-now mode. They can trot him out there as they did so many others in 2019.

They also can send him down to the minors because he holds an option in a split contract that pays $800,000 if he’s on the club. One of those low-risk moves that have come to define the team’s offseasons.

This is assuming, of course, that he stays in the organization through the offseason. Pitcher Marcos Diplán lasted three weeks on the 40-man roster before the Orioles designated him for assignment.

And after all that research I did on him at the Winter Meetings.

Stewart was the fourth overall selection in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. That alone makes him an intriguing pickup. And he was an Under Armour All-American quarterback who committed to Texas A&M before signing with the Twins for a $4.5 million bonus, which allows him to blend easily and maybe come across as a ringer when players toss around the pigskin as part of their spring workouts.

Just protect those fingers.

Stewart primarily is a sinker/slider pitcher who has a chance to rise in the rotation discussion. Whether he’s one of eight or a more expanded field.

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