Taking stock of the current state of the rotation

As I see it, the current state of the Orioles’ rotation is good.

On the plus side, the Orioles have some depth, some youth, some very good arms and some youngsters on the rise.

On the downside, they have a few pitchers that dealt with injuries last year and some young pitchers that have been consistent with their inconsistency.

If spring training began tomorrow, some of the following pitchers would be candidates for rotation spots. The 2012 Orioles staff seemed to benefit from the season-long battle for roster spots and the 2013 O’s may feature a similar approach. For most on this list, they’ll need to pitch well to keep their job.

Here is a look at some current candidates for the 2013 rotation:

Jake Arrieta: As one member of the organization said last year, “He is simply too good to have an ERA of five or six.” But Arrieta’s 6.20 mark was earned with inconsistent pitching. Still, a few scouts spoke very highly of his talents at the Winter Meetings and 2013 will be a big year for him.

Zach Britton: The power sinker is still there, but, like Arrieta, Britton needs to start turning potential into performance and his spot on opening day in April is not guaranteed.

Dylan Bundy: It would be a surprise to see him in the opening day rotation. It would not be a surprise to see him there by mid-season and maybe sooner. The Orioles don’t even waste their time trying to downplay his big-time potential.

Wei-Yin Chen: He entered September with an ERA of 3.78 and seemed to tire a bit as it went up to 4.02. Still, he gave the club 192 2/3 solid innings and pitched well at times in the American League East. His spot in the rotation is solid right now.

Kevin Gausman: He was so good in his first two outings for short-season, Single-A Aberdeen in August that the organization immediately changed the plan for him to stay with the IronBirds and he advanced as far as Double-A Bowie in a few weeks. He was seriously considered for a September call-up and some in the organization feel he’s got just about as much potential as Bundy.

Miguel Gonzalez: Can he repeat his stunning performance, where he went 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA? He seemed so poised and relaxed on the mound, unfazed by pitching in a pennant race. Expectations will be high for him next season.

Jason Hammel: He was rock solid, going 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA over 20 starts. Only a knee injury kept him from doing more. He also embraced the role of veteran mentor on the staff and showed the toughness you want from one of your top starters. If he can repeat that in 2013, it will be big for the Orioles.

Steve Johnson: His remarkable numbers, going 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA came in a small sample size of 38 innings but, like Gonzalez, Johnson showed poise on the mound and more quality pitches that some scouts said he had. He went from a pitcher that almost opted out of his contract at mid-year to one that now is a key candidate for the 2013 staff.

Brian Matusz: He was drafted to be a starting pitcher and some still feel he will be just that despite his success in the bullpen late in the year. In the minors he showed a stunning four-pitch mix and great change-up. Can he have that success in the majors?

Chris Tillman: Has he truly turned the corner? He produced numbers that some thought they’d never see from him: a 9-3 record, 2.93 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. That is top-of-rotation stuff. Is it possible the Erik Bedard trade provides the Orioles with a second star player?

Tsuyoshi Wada: We haven’t seen him pitch in the bigs yet and may not until May or later next year after his Tommy John surgery. Many scouts felt he was not as good as Chen, but the Orioles sure seemed high on him last spring.

Not mentioned yet were Zach Clark, who was recently added to the 40-man roster; Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland; Tommy Hunter, who may have found a home in the bullpen; and Joe Saunders, a pitcher the Orioles would like to re-sign, but haven’t yet.

No, the Orioles don’t have a pitcher on this list that is yet established as a true ace, but they have the potential to have a decent starting five with key depth waiting in the wings as well.

What is your take?: How do you feel about the current state of the rotation? Is the depth solid to you? Which pitchers may take steps forward and which could fall back next season?

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