We are three weeks into spring training, and one of the biggest question marks for the Orioles coming into camp was who would fill the starting rotation.
We are almost certain that Kyle Gibson has filled one of those spots based on the veteranship and experience he brings that no other pitcher on this team has under their belt.
“I would like to think my rotation spot is secure, barring a spring training meltdown here,” Gibson said on his status with the team. “I don’t worry too much about Opening Day. This front office has an idea of how we’re going to fit into a five-day rotation better than I do.”
Cole Irvin would seem to have a spot secured as well, as the crafty lefty eats innings. Though he still has a minor league option, the likelihood of Irvin not starting the season in the rotation is slim-to-none.
That leaves three spots left and a handful of players vying to fill them. Let’s take a look at those guys and how they have fared so far this spring.
Unfortunately, to start things off, we can scratch D.L. Hall off this list. Hall had an injury to his lower back that limited his start and will more than likely push him to a reliever spot or even a start to the season in Triple-A. The O’s top 10 prospect has yet to appear in a game, though he is progressing and feels much better.
Kyle Bradish ended last season with a dominating performance worthy of a top pitcher.
The question would be whether he would carry that over from his rookie year and take the next step in his progression.
After two outings, Bradish is quickly answering those questions. Over the course of five innings of work, Bradish has allowed just one run, two hits, a walk and has four strikeouts.
He is quickly nailing down a spot, as long as he continues to show command of all of his pitches.
Rodriguez is the most hyped pitching prospect in recent years in the Orioles organization. After he backed the hype up through the minors, Rodriguez was set to make his debut in 2022, but unfortunately for him, a lat strain would derail his season for three months and left Rodriguez’s debut to be determined.
Coming into spring training, Orioles GM Mike Elias could hardly contain his excitement when approached about Rodriguez.
“We can’t wait to see him in spring training,” Elias mentioned. “It will be really exciting for us to see him out there in Sarasota. I’m really pulling for him to be in the rotation when we break camp.”
Rodriguez finally made his spring debut against the Tigers on March 2 and threw two scoreless innings with a walk and a strikeout. He would simulate a third inning in the bullpen to get him to a satisfying workload.
“We worked on some things this offseason and so far into spring training,” Rodriguez said Thursday after pitching two scoreless innings against Detroit. “Right now, my stuff’s better than it was last year. When we get a little bigger of a sample size, I can’t wait to use it in a game.”
Rodriguez is slated to pitch again this Tuesday, but so far, he is crossing all the t’s as he looks to secure a rotation spot.
A surprise revelation from last season, Kremer became the first Orioles starter to finish a season with a sub 3.50 ERA since 2016 (Wei-Yen Chen).
An Opening Day injury sent Kremer to the IL and minors to start the season before he returned to help in the rotation mid-season.
After some tweaks to his mechanics, Kremer looked to fill the promise that made him the last remaining piece from the Manny Machado trade.
This spring has seen Kremer pitch five innings, allowing two hits, one run, a walk and tallying three strikeouts. He will anchor the Team Israel staff for the World Baseball Classic and will be starting the team’s first game.
Tyler Wells originally broke through with the Orioles as a lockdown reliever. Due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery, he was paced in his first season with the Birds.
The Orioles decided to stretch Wells out last spring to see how he would fare as a starter. This was partially due to lack of depth but also because of the potential seen in 2021.
Wells did not disappoint, becoming one of the most reliable starters the Orioles had until an oblique injury halted his season. It was a little bit of a blessing in disguise, as Brandon Hyde said he was on an innings limit as a carryover from the previous season.
Wells did have a tough debut this spring, pitching two innings and allowing three runs on five hits with two strikeouts.
Originally considered an outside possibility in the competition, Baumann quickly changed the narrative.
This spring, Big Mike has pitched five innings, allowing two earned runs, two hits, two walks and amassing eight strike outs.
After struggling last season in the bigs, Baumann has dialed in and seems more poised to be the guy who piled up awards in the minors.
The big right-hander might be a dark horse, but he also has bullpen experience, which could benefit him for a role with the team out of spring.
Voth was another waiver claim by GM Mike Elias that turned into a gem amongst the rocks.
Originally working as an opener and long relief option, Voth became a revelation as a starter with the Orioles. He would pitch to a 5-4 record with a 3.04 ERA, a pleasant surprise, to say the least.
Voth has only appeared once this spring, allowing one earned run on three hits in two innings of work. Hyde has seemed to lean towards removing Voth from the rotation competition based on his recent remarks.
The skipper said Voth’s relief experience could affect rotation choices. This makes it seem like Voth is being viewed more as a reliever and swing starter going forward, but, of course, time will tell.
Zimmermann is an enigma of a pitcher. At times, he looks like someone who is still learning the position, and other times, he looks like a poised veteran.
The Baltimore County native has made two appearances this spring, and currently has been that same enigma.
After giving up two earned runs on three hits in two innings of work his first time out, Zimm returned this past Saturday to pitch three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three.
While the young lefty is keeping one foot in the competition, he still seems like an outside shot at making the rotation, barring a significant injury or meltdown.
Watkins is probably on the outside looking in as well, but he isn’t going to go away quietly.
After two scoreless innings of work Thursday, Watkins showed why he has the skills to still be a force to be reckoned with. The righty would not give up and hit while striking out two and walking none.
Watkins continues his Cinderella story as he fights to make a statement and earn a role with the team, whether it be in the rotation or bullpen.
At this time, the competition seems to be tight, with each pitcher making statements on the mound. It still is early spring, and with the World Baseball Classic starting, anything is possible.
We will continue to monitor how this unfolds and see who starts to pull away and become a key piece in helping round out the O’s starting five.
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