OK, so this is a variation of a question we ask every year. And usually it is about "the young, inexperienced rotation." There's a different spin in 2013. Of the five members of the rotation, only Chris Tillman, who turns 25 in April, is younger than 27. Jason Hammel, who serves as the club's de facto ace, is 30. Miguel Gonzalez is 28 and Wei-Yin Chen and Jake Arrieta are 27. The training wheels are off. They've all had some success in the majors previously and, with the exception of Arrieta, took a step forward last year. Now they have to prove that they can do it again while American League teams know what to expect, especially from Chen and Gonzalez, who were rookies last year. The sense within baseball is that Hammel and Tillman turned the corner in their careers last year and should be fine assuming they can stay healthy. (Hammel is returning from knee surgery and Tillman will be sidelined until April 6 with abdomen soreness that seemingly has gone away.) Scouts love Chen's pitching acumen and focus and expect the lefty (above) to build on his fine rookie year (12-11, 4.02 ERA in 32 starts). Gonzalez is more of a mystery. He was fantastic last year (9-4, 3.25 ERA) when promoted from Triple-A, but he relies on pitch selection and control, and he could have a tougher time in his sophomore campaign, when he won¿t surprise anyone. The biggest wild card is Arrieta, who could emerge as the team ace or be in the minors in a few weeks. He has the best pure ability on the staff and had a great spring. But now he must be consistent in the majors to keep his job. The good news for the Orioles is that if the rotation springs holes, there are reinforcements in the minors, including top prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman lurking in Double-A.
Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun
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