In 12 days, Orioles pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota, Fla., for the start of spring training, but there's still much uncertainty about who will be in the starting rotation.
For months, only right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman had spots into the rotation. Another right-hander, Miguel Castro, has been slotted in as a possibility.
"Obviously, we have work to do to address some of the deficiencies on our ballclub," Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said at FanFest Jan. 27. "The key will be addressing the starting pitching. If we can do that, and I'm confident that we can, don't ask me how exactly, but if we can do that, then we can have another good season."
Four starters from last season -- right-handers Jeremy Hellickson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman and left-hander Wade Miley -- remain unsigned. Tillman, who has been working out at the Orioles' Sarasota facility, could possibly return.
Many free-agent starters remain unsigned, including right-handers Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn. The Orioles have expressed interest in all of them, but Duquette said at December's Winter Meetings that the team wouldn't be offering four- or five-year contracts for starters.
Cobb and Lynn might still be looking for those long-term deals, but Cashner remains a possibility.
Internally, the Orioles could turn to right-handers Mike Wright or Gabriel Ynoa, both of whom are out of options. Another right-hander, Alec Asher, who started six games for the Orioles last season, remains on the 40-man roster. Left-hander Jayson Aquino started two games and was re-signed to a minor league contract.
Another possibility is left-hander Nestor Cortes, a Rule 5 draft pick from the New York Yankees organization. Cortes started and relieved in both Double-A and Triple-A last season.
"I don't know where I fall in with the list, but I was happy that I got the opportunity," Cortes said at January's minicamp in Sarasota. "I'm ready. I have the experience. Hopefully I get a shot here."
Others on the 40-man roster who have significant minor league experience as starters include right-handers David Hess, Michael Kelly and Yefry Ramirez and left-hander Chris Lee.
None have pitched in the majors, and all could start the season at Triple-A Norfolk or Double-A Bowie.
Bundy and Gausman have both wondered about who will join them in the rotation.
"We have no idea," Bundy said. "We're definitely looking forward to it, but we've got some guys here that have been here before and started games for us. We know that they're going to be in spring training competing."
Gausman said that he's eager to find out, too.
"It's definitely a little weird, but I'm sure in the next couple of weeks we'll probably sign some other guys," Gausman said at FanFest. "I think I've had probably 50 people … I haven't even been here a day, but say something about me pitching every other day. I guess that's the running joke around town."
This winter, manager Buck Showalter has tried to joke about the uncertainty. "If you're left-handed and breathing, come see me," he's said.
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