Orioles believe rotation will make successful turn

Ubaldo says group of arms is hungry to get started in spring camp

February 19th, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Whether or not the Orioles sign free-agent starter Yovani Gallardo, the club's success this season will largely hinge on the improvement of the rest of the rotation.

O's executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter have voiced their optimism that the team's current starters will take a step forward in 2016. But what gives them that confidence?

"Some people say because we have no other choice," Showalter joked of a group that didn't have a single guy -- outside of the departed Wei-Yin Chen -- pitch to a sub-4.00 ERA. "No, guys returning to the form that we know they are capable of when they were so successful in 2014, we know it's there. And I know they know it, and I have a lot of confidence they can return to that form.

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"If they had never done it before, it'd be a little different. We feel confident they are going to be as good as they are capable of being."

The group, which includes Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman, all reported to camp on Thursday and took part in Friday's first official workout for pitchers and catchers. Tillman has slimmed down some while Gonzalez and Gausman have added a little muscle. All four of them -- rotation locks if healthy -- know that even though they aren't competing for roster spots, this is a big spring.

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"It's not a surprise [to say] we weren't able to do what we were supposed to do last year," Jimenez said. "Everyone is looking forward to getting the job done and be a part of a winning team."

Jimenez, who is looking for consistency in 2016, said he's confident the rest of the rotation will bounce back.

"Especially what they've been able to do the years before," Jimenez said. "This is baseball. It's tough. You are going to have a [down] year, but they have a lot of time. And I bet they are really hungry to show what they are capable of doing."

If the Orioles don't reach an agreement with Gallardo, the in-house competition for the rotation would have Vance Worley, Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright. Showalter said Wright, who some think ultimately could be a bullpen guy, is being considered a starter this spring regardless of any potential additions. Should the O's add Gallardo, they wouldn't have a rotation competition and instead would have a little more depth at Triple-A.

Jimenez knows all about being the late addition guy, signing with the Orioles in February 2014.

"It's going to take a little bit of time. It doesn't matter if you tell yourself it's not," Jimenez said. "It will because it's a different adjustment. You have to come to a new team, you're meeting new guys and new pitching coaches. It's a new adjustment, but [Gallardo is] a veteran guy. He's been in the big leagues for eight, nine years, so he's going to find a way to get where he needs to be."