O's rotation still unsettled
Rainout costs team a chance to see starting pitchers
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- In a perfect world, Baltimore manager Dave Trembley would have his starting rotation ordered by now. In this one, he's a long way from having anything settled. Trembley's latest plans to provide some clarity to his staff were ditched by raindrops Wednesday, creating a backlog of starters to audition.
Trembley, who has consistently delayed questions about the rotation, asked for more time on Wednesday.
"I said after the 18th, I would have that, and it kind of got moved a little bit," he said. "Now, I'll probably have to take a mulligan and wait until I get back on the 20th to see. I was hoping I would get enough guys in there to pitch today that the scenario would become a little bit clear. Obviously, with the one rainout today, it has not afforded me that chance to be more specific with all of you and the people interested in what's going on."
The Orioles came into Spring Training with two guaranteed rotation slots -- those belonging to Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara -- and three spots up for grabs. Rich Hill was tabbed as a favorite but has been slowed by an elbow ailment, and candidates John Parrish and Brad Hennessey have also been ruled out by injury.
Strangely enough, even the two sure things have question marks attached to them. Guthrie has been out of sight as he pitches for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, and Uehara has a left hamstring injury that has delayed his return to the mound. Fittingly, pitching coach Rick Kranitz said their absence may have helped.
"It really would've been rough if USA would've lost, because Guthrie would've pitched here today," said Kranitz, speaking of Team USA's 6-5 victory over Puerto Rico on Tuesday. "It wouldn't have been so bad if we would've played two games, but when you're only playing one and you've got so many guys scheduled, it would've been rough."
The Orioles had to get creative to keep everyone on or near their normal turn. Penn and Simon will pitch in Wednesday's game against the Nationals, pushing Danys Baez back to Friday against the Mets. Consequently, Bergesen and Brian Bass will pitch in a Minor League game Friday against the Red Sox.
Kranitz said that might be an inconvenience, but it's the best the Orioles can do under the circumstances.
"That's just part of it," he said of the Minor League games. "If we've got to take over all of their games, we will."
Meanwhile, the Orioles got updates on both Hill and Uehara. Hill will pitch another side session on Friday, and if all goes well, he may be able to pitch in a game as early as next Tuesday. Uehara, meanwhile, will continue a running program and may be able to return to the practice mound by the end of the week.
Trembley, in an unguarded moment, said that his rotation appears to be wide open with just two weeks until Opening Day. And in the best-case scenario, he'd like to see someone step up and seize a job. That may not be Hill, who will need everything to break his way in order to avoid starting the year on the disabled list.
"At first blush, that's how it would appear -- that there are still no clear front-runners for anything past Uehara," said Trembley. "Maybe today Eaton will step up and show that, but I haven't seen guys step up and say I'm the third, fourth or fifth starter. ... We felt like Hill was going to get an opportunity, but its March 18 and he hasn't pitched yet. You've got to have other plans. That's why we're doing what we're doing with some of these other guys."
With that comment, Trembley was referring to increased opportunities for Bass, Bergesen and southpaw Mark Hendrickson. David Pauley was also regarded as a candidate but has struggled to separate himself from the pack. Matt Albers and Radhames Liz have been removed from the derby, simplifying the process.
The Orioles haven't ruled out snagging someone off waivers from another organization before Spring Training ends, and Trembley has been clear that everyone in camp will be evaluated fairly.
"We've done our best and will continue to do our best to provide opportunities," said Trembley. "I think what has happened is that people have let us know where they're at themselves more than anything else. The guys that have pitched have shown what they can do. The guys that haven't pitched has been an unfortunate situation. Some people have really just been put on the backburner. They're no longer a priority. I've come to grips with that, that some of these guys are not going to happen. And there's other guys that are stepping up."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.