Thursday’s press release of left-handed pitcher Dana Eveland being designated for assignment is confirmation of the off-season plan devised by first-year Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.
Yes, the failure of Eveland — who signed a $750,000 contract in December — to establish himself as a legitimate rotation candidate in Spring Training is good news for the short and long term interests of the Orioles. It takes considerable time for a farm system to be evaluated and overhauled, so the idea of serious reinforcements arriving to aid the worst starting staff in the American League was remote.
The only way Baltimore can see more success on the field in 2012 is through improved starting pitching. Considering the reluctance of free agents in choosing the Orioles and the lack of willingness to spend to convince them, that improvement wasn’t coming in the form of a big ticket free agent, either.
While the litany of names poured through in press release — Eveland? Chen? Wada? Hammel? — the snickers were heard through Baltimore. None had proven themselves to be even average starters at the big league level. None looked capable of surviving the AL East. While the sentiment is probably very accurate, it missed the point. The only cure for the 2012 Orioles lies in the improvement of their current young arms.
It wasn’t long ago when there was optimism around Zach Britton, Chris Tillman, Brian Matuz, and Jake Arrieta. They were supposed to be four high-end arms to lead the young Orioles through the treacherous American League East. What happened to them? Well, they’re all still in Sarasota competing for jobs. Their lack of production and/or injury concerns halted the development of what looked to be a rotation with decent potential. Britton developed a shoulder injury, Tillman sports a career earned run average in the 5’s, Arrieta had bone spurs and a disturbing tendency to throw fastballs over the middle of the plate. As for Matusz? He backed up a strong finish in 2010 (7-1, 2.18 ERA over last 11 starts) with the worst season a starting pitcher has ever had. Ever. 10.69 earned run average, .693 slugging percentage allowed. You name a record a pitcher doesn’t want to own, he owns it.