Baltimore Sun baseball writer Eduardo Encina today asked readers to predict the 2013 Orioles starting rotation. Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel, he writes, are locks. Can’t argue with that. Both were major parts of Baltimore’s shocking comeback in 2012.
So how about the other three? Encina mentions Steve Johnson, who made his big-league debut late in the season and showed impressive versatility and nerve. Miguel Gonzalez was a terrific story last year, getting noticed in the Mexican League and riding a hot streak all the way to the bigs. And Chris Tillman went 9 and 3 in 15 starts, notching an ERA under 3.
Zach Britton, Dylan Bundy, Tommy Hunter, Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz all get their names tossed around to join the rotation. But one name is missing.
Dan Duquette’s first move as O’s baseball honcho was to sign Wada. In five seasons in the JPPL, the Japanese left-hander racked up a .600 winning percentage and an ERA under 3. He signed a two-year, $8 million deal with Baltimore a year ago and promptly blew out his arm. He had Tommy John surgery – or, in Japanese, “Tommy John-san surgery” – six weeks into the season and was all but forgotten. Last June, he visited the Orioles clubhouse at Tropicana Field, taking a break from rehabbing at the O’s Sarasota facility. Buck Showalter told The Sun, “He’s talked about, if everything goes well, being on a mound in February. I don’t see him breaking camp with us, but at least if everything goes well, he can start that progression.”
So, is everything going well after ligament replacement surgery? Could be. Showalter mentioned Wada at this month’s winter meetings, noting that his rehab was ahead of schedule. “We have a chance to get a good pitcher a lot sooner than some people think.”
If Baltimore could get the Wada they thought they signed a year ago, he’d be a shoo-in for the rotation. But with depth among their starters – assuming none of them is traded – the O’s can afford to be a little patient with Wada.