Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Starting Pitching

If Andy Macphail can hang his hat on anything at this point it is the fact that he has very efficiently stockpiled a number of young talented arms. The key, however, is to learn from past Oriole mistakes and keep those arms young for as long as possible.

The recent acquisition of Rich Hill will certainly help to do this.

Hill is a 28 year old left handed stater who has spent his entire career in the Chicago Cubs organization. In 2007, Hill went 11-8 with a 3.92 but was demoted early in 2008 as a result of control problems. Ultimately, Hill became expendable as he was not likely to stick with the Cubs major league roster and was out of options. The Cubs sent him to Baltimore in exchange for a player to be named later.

Hill will be reunited with pitching coachs Rick Kranitz and Alan Dunn - both of whom he worked with in the Cubs organization.

To make room for Rich Hill on the major league roster the Orioles assigned Brian Burres to the minors. He DID NOT clear waivers and was claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Prior to signing Hill, the Orioles acquired Koji Uehara. Uehara too is likely to find a spot in the Orioles starting rotation. The 33 year old righty was very successful in Japan and his signing is a direct reflection of Andy Macphail's strategy of expanding overseas scouting.

Because neither Hill or Uehara have proven themselves as major league starters and the Orioles only have one entrenched starting pitcher in Jeremy Guthrie, Andy Macphail may push hard to sign free agent pitcher Braden Looper prior to February 14 when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

In addition to Hill and Uehara the Orioles have also acquired John Parrish. The lefty spent time with the Orioles two seasons ago as a left handed specialist out of the bullpen. He spent time with the Toronto Blue Jays last year and could serve as either a long reliever or possibly as a spot starter at the back end of the rotation.

Hill, Uehara, and Parrish will be asked to join incumbent candidates Matt Albers and Troy Patton to help fill the four open starting spots so that the young arms that Macphail has effectively stockpiled wont have to be rushed to the top. Radhames Liz and Hayden Penn will likely be given opportunities to compete for major league spots in spring training as well.

With luck, the Orioles will compete through the end of the season without having to see the likes of Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, David Hernandez, Brad Bergesen, or Brandon Erbe.

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