Rotation biggest uncertainty as camp nears

With Gallardo still unsigned, O's look to Tillman and Jimenez to lead starters

Rotation biggest uncertainty as camp nears

BALTIMORE -- As of Monday morning, there wasn't any news on the Orioles' pursuit of free-agent starter Yovani Gallardo, leaving an important question unanswered (at least for now): Who will be in the O's rotation?

With Spring Training just days away, MLB.com continues its preview series by looking at some of Baltimore's biggest camp battles. The Orioles remain the frontrunner to sign Gallardo, but he's still on the market, leaving the starting pitching as the club's biggest question mark.

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All winter, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has said he'd like to upgrade the pitching staff.

"A 13-game winner would do that, right?" Duquette said on last week's Hot Stove Show on 105.7 The Fan (WJZ-FM). "Gallardo's been a good pitcher over his career. He did well in the National League with Milwaukee, and he also pitched well this year with Texas, and he pitched well in the playoffs. That's why teams would have interest in him.

"And he's been very dependable, I think. That's something that we've been trying to add to our pitching staff, and we're still working on it."

Prospects | Newcomers | Comeback candidates

Right now, the Orioles' rotation is comprised of Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Miguel Gonzalez. The addition of Gallardo would give them a proven arm to help stabilize things, but -- if not -- the in-house competition will consist primarily of Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright and Vance Worley.

Tillman holds Blue Jays to two

Even if Gallardo becomes an Oriole, the rotation will still be a much-discussed topic in camp as the rest of the O's starters each try to bounce back from an overall underwhelming year. The Orioles' rotation pitched to a 4.53 ERA last year, 25th in baseball, and will have to do better to give its power-laden lineup a shot.

Gone is Wei-Yin Chen, the only regular starter with a sub-4 ERA, and both Duquette and manager Buck Showalter have expressed optimism that other guys will step forward. Tillman, last year's Opening Day starter, is coming off a season in which he went 11-11 with a 4.99 ERA in 31 games. Jimenez -- after a great first half -- tailed off and pitched to a 4.11 ERA in 32 games.

Gausman, 24, could be poised to take a step forward and finally have some stability after being yo-yoed back and forth from the Minor Leagues. Gausman went 4-7 with a 4.25 ERA in 25 games (17 starts) last season and should be -- if he's healthy and performing -- a more consistent rotation fixture. Gonzalez, who had been the picture of consistency until 2015, struggled with injury, and if he's healthy, he could rebound from a season that saw him go 9-12 with a 4.91 ERA in 26 games.

The acquisition of Gallardo would certainly help, but the fate of the Orioles' season will still largely depend on if the other four starters can improve on 2015.

Key Dates

Pitchers and catchers report
Feb. 18

Full squad reports
Feb 23.

First Spring Training game
Away at Braves, March 1 @ 1:05 p.m. ET

Opening Day
Home vs. Twins, April 4 @ 3:05 p.m. ET

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.