What We Know: Rodrigo Lopez, Daniel Cabrera, Erik Bedard and Sidney Ponson are set, in that order. The fifth spot is between the deserving Bruce Chen, organizational swingman Rick Bauer, and washout candidate Matt Riley.
Lopez: Gets by on location, not stuff. When he's healthy, he's a reliable enough middle-of-the-rotation guy. He does not like being in the bullpen, which we've learned the hard way - hard as in he publically complained about it, and also hard as in he was the best pitcher on the staff, in the bullpen, while the rotation was continually bombed.
Cabrera: Boy, is he tall. I'm really not a Cabrera guy because even though his control has been good this spring, his K:BB was so ugly last year that I still search the statistics at least three times a week for reasons his rookie season was considered a success. Still, he's 24 in May (at least for now), and his minor league numbers showed a very good K-rate if... well, not a whole lot else to get too excited about.
Bedard: Bedard was underrated last season just for being at least somewhat stable. His WHIP was not pretty and he needs to drop the walks down, but his K-rate was pretty good and a 4.59 ERA starts looking nice among the mess he was surrounded with outside of Lopez. He's 26, and when Jim Palmer was 26, he won 21 games with a 2.07 ERA. Bedard has a better K-rate than Palmer had. Thus, I conclude Erik Bedard is ready to strike out about 190 batters and win 20 games with a sub-3 ERA. Why do I compare Bedard and Palmer? Why do I do anything! (Seriously, I think Bedard could emerge as our best starter.)
Ponson: Enough about Ponson. We all know the problems - he doesn't get people out and he's becoming a distraction. Ponson is shaping up (I'll walk right past the joke there) to be the new David Wells if he doesn't get it together, but Sir Sid doesn't have a sweet curve like Boomer. Although in strictly Orioles terms, he could easily live up to that one crappy season Wells gave us.
Chen: I like Chen. He was at one time a serious prospect and he pitched very well down the stretch last year. He has been on 317 teams. I would love it if this nomad became a cog in the Orioles rotation, because we could use a story like that. And if Chen pitches to his ability, we could damn sure use a pitcher like that.
Riley: I've gone from big Riley supporter to big Riley detractor. We know he has the skill - prove it. If I may speak for the faction, I think the Riley detractors simply want to see Matt put it together. We aren't rooting against him. If he makes the rotation and pitches well, we're back to Riley supporters. The organization likes him, or at least they really must.
Bauer: Not special in any way, though he is tall. Has never really ever been a very good pitcher. I have no idea why Rick Bauer is in the race for the fifth spot. Perhaps it is just for encouragement.
What We Know: BJ Ryan is the man. Jorge Julio is not the man. Steve Kline's hat is awesome.
Ryan: Was maybe the most dominant lefty reliever in baseball last year, although by park-adjusted ERA+ Kline was the better pitcher (234 to 210). He'll get a shot at closing, which makes me feel like people are thinking again.
Julio: Was really good in 2002, not very good at all in 2003, and not very good in 2004. I wish we could have traded Julio above his actual value thanks to him having saves the last three years, but that wasn't in the cards. Since it wasn't, here's hoping he's in shape and pitches effectively.
Kline: Steve Kline is a bit boorish, maybe. His cap is just filthy. I love Kline. I've always really liked Kline. He's had two fantastic seasons ('01 and '04) with a couple decent years between them. He's not old, so he should be expected to be effective throughout his contract. It was a solid signing.
Steve Reed: Reed is a professional reliever to the bone. He can pitch. He's been doing it for 13 years. He's not a dominator but he's probably going to be a solid middle innings guy.
Chen/Riley/Bauer: Two of these guys will be in the pen. Bauer has been there before and this is probably the right place to see if Riley can get it in gear.
John Parrish: Left-handed.
Todd Williams: Had a pretty good 2004 in 29 games. Had a good spring. May get squeezed out. Has pitched 79 career games over a five-year career that has spanned ten actual years.
OK, so that wasn't very in-depth. But the thing is, there's not a ton to say. We don't have anyone (besides Ryan, maybe) to get all that excited about. The bottom line for the 2005 season is that the pitching absolutely has to improve - by a lot - for the Orioles to be contenders. There's just no getting around that. The rotation has to be better and the bullpen has to be good in support. Without pitching, we won't succeed no matter how many hitters we pile up. D+ rotation on paper and a B for bullpen.