There are multiple teams embroiled in the Kevin Millwood sweepstakes with the Rangers, but the Orioles appear to have faded from a favorite to just another contender. The two teams have exchanged names of pitching prospects that could be sent from Baltimore to Texas, but there appears to be a cavernous gulf between what the Rangers want and what they can get.
This much is certain: The Rangers and Orioles match up well in terms of money. Texas is trying to shed some salary and Baltimore has plenty of room in the budget as well as a pressing need for starting pitching. The Rangers reportedly asked the Orioles for Chris Tillman, while Baltimore would prefer to trade David Hernandez or Brandon Erbe.
Now, the two teams will either try to find a middle ground or move on to other pursuits.
— Spencer Fordin
When Brian Matusz won on Tuesday, he became the fifth Baltimore rookie to win his big-league debut this season, a feat unrivaled in modern baseball history. Only one other team — the 1888 Chicago White Stockings, who later became the Cubs — has managed to equal that achievement, giving the Orioles an interesting footnote in the game’s annals.
Koji Uehara, Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and David Hernandez have also won their debuts this season, and Baltimore had a near-miss in a no-decision for Chris Tillman.
Rookie Matt Wieters, who helped usher Matusz through his debut, had an interesting quip. “That’s when they started baseball,” he said of 1888. “So everybody was debuting.”
The Orioles appear likely to promote David Hernandez to the big-league rotation on Thursday, calling the right-hander up from Triple-A Norfolk. Hernandez will be filling in for Koji Uehara, who went to the disabled list on Wednesday with a strained left hamstring.
Hernandez struck out 13 batters in his last outing at Triple-A Norfolk and has posted a 3-1 record and a 2.91 ERA through eight starts. The youngster led the Double-A Eastern League in strikeouts last year and currently ranks second in the International League.
When he arrives, Hernandez will add to Baltimore’s youth-filled rotation. Fellow rookies Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken are already on the staff, and the team’s two other starters — Rich Hill and Jeremy Guthrie — have combined for a little more than five years of service time.
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley was closely questioned about starter Adam Eaton’s job security on Thursday, and he chose to keep his comments short and sweet. Trembley was asked how long he could afford to stick with Eaton — who went into Thursday’s game with a 7.93 ERA — and he replied by saying he wasn’t really sure about his alternatives.
“We have every reason to believe that he’ll pitch well [tonite],” said Trembley. “What happens after that, I really can’t give an answer to because I don’t have one. If I did, I would be very willing to share that with you. I understand what I’m being asked, I know what you want me to say. But I’d rather just let him pitch tonight and see what happens. Everything will become clear. I’ll be prepared to answer the question if he doesn’t pitch well tonight.”
Eaton, who was signed in Spring Training to help buy time for the team’s flock of young arms, didn’t pitch well. He allowed doubles to the first three batters he faced and gave up six earned runs in the first two innings, prompting Trembley’s worst-case scenario.
If the Orioles eventually opt to jettison Eaton, they’ll likely promote either David Hernandez from Triple-A Norfolk or Troy Patton from Double-A Bowie. Chris Tillman could also be an option, but Baltimore wants him to spend most of the year at Norfolk.
The Orioles began making their first cuts of the spring on Saturday, although some of the players may hang around for an extra day or two before they depart to the team’s Minor League complex in Sarasota. Perhaps the most prominent of the cuts was right-hander Chris Tillman, who’s considered one of the team’s best pitching prospects.
Tillman, just 20 years old, is expected to split the season between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk and might be the first of Baltimore’s top prospects to reach the Majors. For now, he’s concentrating on what he has to do next.
“They kind of let me know I’m here for the experience and to get to know the guys. The time will come,” he said. “They’re not sure where I’ll start because there are so many pitchers now, which is a good thing. I’m happy to be part of it. And either way, it’s a positive.”
Other cuts include Jake Arrieta, Fredy Deza, Ryan Keefer, Adam Donachie, Jose Reyes and Craig Brazell. The Orioles also announced after the game that they were also reassigning first-round draftee Brian Matusz, Troy Patton, David Hernandez, Chorye Spoone and Jim Hoey to their Minor League camp in Sarasota, wrapping up the first round of cuts.
The Orioles officially agreed to terms with five prospects on Monday, signing all of them to split contracts. The most prominent of the group, southpaw Troy Patton, will earn $253,500 if he pitches in the Minors and a base of $400,000 if he makes the parent club.
Two other pitchers with big-league experience — Hayden Penn and Bob McCrory — signed similar contracts. Penn inked a deal for $88,335 in the Minors and $400,000 in the Majors, while McCrory will earn $83,825 in the Minors and $400,000 in the Majors.
Finally, David Hernandez and Chorye Spoone both signed split deals for $32,500 at the Minor League level and $400,000 if they happen to make the Majors. Spoone had shoulder surgery last season and is lagging behind the rest of his teammates so far in spring.
The Orioles have released their pitching plans for Tuesday’s exhibition game against Team Italy, and there won’t be a soft arm in the bunch. Baltimore plans on pitching its best prospects against Italy, headlined by first round draftee Brian Matusz.
Matusz, who has never pitched in a full-season professional league, will work one inning. He’ll be followed by Troy Patton, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Wilfrido Perez, David Hernandez and Jim Hoey. Bergesen is the only pitcher scheduled to work two innings.
Only two of those eight pitchers — Patton and Hoey — have ever pitched in the Majors. Top prospect Matt Wieters is expected to catch, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet. Baltimore prospects Jeff Fiorentino and Mike Costanzo are expected to play for Italy.