The entire point behind the current generation of Orioles was supposed to be grow the arms and buy the bats. Brian Matusz's early exit from today's game at Yankee Stadium is highly symbolic of the fact that the arms have in fact been grown, but they're currently stunted. Time and time again I've written about some of the reasons for that; injuries, lack of command, inconsistency, etc. That's really beside the point for the purposes of this article. The question is, who's pitching in 2012? Survey says: WHO'S NOT PITCHING! (Sorry, I personally believe that Who's on First is the greatest slapstick routine in history.) As a follow-up, one has to ask whether or not the Orioles might look to the free agent market in terms of pitching for 2012...
...in fact, let's make that the primary focus for the moment. Speaking for myself, I wouldn't mind seeing the O's pick up another veteran arm in addition to Jeremy Guthrie. The market will have a lot of decent names this year, including the likes of former Oriole Erik Bedard. There's one name I hope the Orioles don't go after. That opinion has nothing to do with the fact that Bedard wasn't exactly smitten with the organization when he was here before. However while it would bring the magic of the Adam Jones trade full circle, Bedard has been plagued by injuries since he left Baltimore. With Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, and Brad Bergesen having been hurt over the course of the past two seasons, I highly doubt that the O's want to sign another injury-prone pitcher into the rotation. (And don't forget Justin Duchscherer from this year...) However names such as Dontrelle Willis, Mark Buehrle, Ryan Dempster, Roy Oswalt, and Brad Penny might be of interest to the Orioles. Some of these guys have also had their share of injuries, struggles, etc., however I don't think that the Orioles can possibly start the season without signing a free agent pitcher into the organization.
To address what the O's already have, I think that the real question is whether or not Tillman and/or Matusz start the season in Norfolk or in Baltimore. I can't attest as to what any of these guys' offseason training programs are, however needless to say they might want to tweak whatever they did last year. Tillman was injured late in 2010 and it appeared that he was still recovering for much of this year. It also appeared that Matusz was rushed back too quickly from his injury this spring. That's on the organization moreso than the pitchers themselves, however they are accountable for what they do in the offseason in terms of conditioning. As much attention to detail as Buck Showalter pays, I suspect that this has already been addressed with these players.
I mentioned Jeremy Guthrie above as the ace; I'm assuming that he's on the roster in 2012. There's nothing to indicate that he won't be, however who's to say that the O's don't get a compelling offer for him this winter and move him? Furthermore, MASN analyst Rick Dempsey mentioned the possibility of Guthrie closing. He might be saying that as a guy with knowledge of something being up, or he might be just talking out of the blue. However it's an interesting idea. With Guthrie you know that you're going to get a gamer with great command in the ninth inning. That's been a problem with Oriole closers of late in that they've seemed to wilt under pressure for years. This would require the Orioles to do one of two things; use four starters from the organization (plus perhaps one free agent), or pick up two free agent pitchers in the offseason.
My personal opinion is that Guthrie will be the Opening Day starter in 2012. He'll be followed in the rotation (in no particular order) by: Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, and a free agent aquisition. Keep in mind that I'm writing this on September 5th of 2011; we don't know what moves are made before next February/March, and what happens as we move into Grapefruit League play next spring. The spring training games themselves will have a big say in who's in the rotation. As it stands now, I think we'll probably see a four-way battle for two rotation spots between Matusz, Tillman, Hunter, and Alfredo Simon. I'm basing this off of what's going on now; who knows what happens once the season ends.