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Who should be the Orioles' fifth starter?



We’re back. This bar keeps rising from the dead like Michigan State in the NCAA tournament.

Sorry that I’ve been slacking lately. Major computer problems – and stolen shipments of Dos Equis and Guinness – led to a shut down here. Plus, we’re officially into Swamp Week in Sarasota, which has nothing to do with alligators.

This is the final week of spring training, so we at The Sun will be burning a bunch of candles at a bunch of ends to get you ready for next Tuesday’s Opening Day.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t pour some libations today.

The most interesting thing in camp right now is the No. 5 starter battle, which technically is still among Chris Tillman, David Hernandez and Jason Berken.

But honestly it is between Hernandez, who has pitched well this spring, and Tillman, who has had trouble with his command at times.

It is a tough call – or a complex issue as Dave Trembley has called it.

Trembley has said all along that this would be a competition to be decided this spring. And if that is true, then it would seem unfair not to give Hernandez the spot. Also, Tillman is only 21, so getting more seasoning in the minors wouldn’t be a terrible thing.

But the flip side is Tillman is most likely a bigger part of this team’s future. His spring has been uneven, but OK. He’s a great kid and you don’t want to mess with one of your top prospect’s head.

Honestly, I think Tillman is so well adjusted – even at his age – that beginning in Triple-A would only make him work harder, and want it that much more. I still think this guy is a special talent, but we can’t forget how he young he is.

It really is a tough choice. But if the team doesn’t think Tillman will be successful in April, it’s best to send him down now instead of a few regular-season beatings. So I say go with Hernandez. But, yeah, it’s not an easy one.

What say you?

Daily Think Special: Who should be the Orioles’ fifth starter?


Comments

I can not understand why we are worried about a number 5 starter. Who is going to be 1,2,3,4?

Tillman. Its just wrong if it isn't. He finished there, and to demote him would risk serious problems

We have this debate while guthrie gets shelled every time out for 2 years.

My grandmom hit a 2 run hr in batting practice off him.

Hernandez, because he's won the competition. And Tillman will be helped by further seasoning; if Guthrie doesn't perform, he can come up mid-season.

I haven't seen either Hernandez or Tillmen pitch this spring, but if Hernandez can throw that low and away fastball for strike - like they say he has been doing - then he is my choice as a starter. And not as a fifth but as a fourth starter.

Tillman has the brighter future he just needs to get his innings in against ML hitters. His command will be there and the proper adjustments will be made as he gains experience.

Great Column Dan, I agree with you. Tillman is the future, if the race pans out like this i will send him down to the Minors to get his control again, but I really believe we shouldnt sleep on this Kid, Hernandez......he might end up being one of the horses on this staff.

Sending Tillman down now sounds better than having to send him down during the season.

If they choose Hernandez, try to avoid the thought that you're settling for something less than the best. Baseball people always seem like they assume the guy with the most potential will eventually be "the guy". But that's not always the case. Look at Brad Bergesen for example. He was never mentioned by the brass in the same sentence with the top pitchers in the organization. All he did was perform. He performed at the minor league level, then when he got the chance, he performed at the major league level. No, he doesn't have the eye popping fastball, but so what, he gets the job done. Right now, Hernandez is pitching significantly better than Tillman, so the choice should be easy. And who knows, maybe Hernandez will turn out to be a really fine major league pitcher, even though he's not "poster boy" talent. Let Tillman work out his kinks at triple A; both he and the team will be better for it.

I'm just relieved that we're not debating Adam Eaton vs.

I say Hernandez. There is no point in pressing Tillman into service at the big league level until he's absolutely ready; this organization has rushed far too many starters to the bigs in the past 25 years.

Let Hernandez keep the spot warm for Tillman. If Hernandez gets rolled by the O's brutal spring schedule, it's no problem. If he gets though it with decent results, he's good trade bait at mid-season point.

Much as I like Tillman and want to see him succeed, you have competition for a reason, and Hernandez has earned it. Hopefully Tillman goes down and puts up nice numbers in AAA to get back soon. I met him at the AAA photo day last season, my 6 year old son got his picture with him, nice kid with tons of potential!

I actually think that both Hernandez and Tillman should make the rotation if it is really based off of performance. Both of them are outperforming Guthrie.

Tillman is my wish, Hernandez and Berken should be in the bullpen in the future.

Please send him down. Let him work things out. Not just give it to him. Make him want it. It didn't hurt Plamer. Maybe he can be as good as him.

Dan the Man, you've been away longer than I've been in Iraq!

Unfortunately I haven't been able to see any of these performances between Tillman, Hernandez & Berken, but from what's being reported, I have to go with Hernandez. If he's any better than last year, I could see him bumping Guthrie down a spot. Wishful thinking I guess!

Guthrie.

Barkeep, The only question for me would be whether or not sending Tillman down would mess with his head.

As you point out, he's only 21; if he's reasonable, he has to see that he hasn't really proven himself yet at the big league level.

Sure, a case can be made that Hernandez hasn't either, but he's a bit more seasoned than Tillman. Normally, I don't like the idea of a player making the team or not based on Spring Training, but this time I think it's a good way to measure and here's why.

If you look at their debuts with the Orioles last season, you'll find that in some areas, Hernandez's stats and Tillman's are amazingly close, nearly identical:

Hernandez
W-L% 2.86
ERA 5.42
H/9 10.7
HR/9 2.4
WHIP 1.618
SO/BB 1.48

Tillman
W-L% 2.86
ERA 5.40
H/9 10.7
HR/9 2.1
WHIP 1.554
SO/BB 1.63

What separates the two most of all is the amount of innings pitched: 101.1 for Hernandez and only 65 for Tillman.

So for youngsters there's a fairly significant gap in major league experience, and when confronted with as tough an early season schedule as the O's have, everything else being fairly equal between them, I submit that the extra experience tips the scales in favor of Hernandez.

Had Tillman been lights out this spring and Hernandez struggled, I could see this being a tougher choice, but right now it seems pretty clear that, unless he has a complete collapse in his final ST outing, David Hernandez has pitched his way into the rotation.

Hernandez would have a real opportunity to make a statement, and if he can continue his ST success, could be a very pleasant surprise for the Orioles.

Meanwhile, having Tillman start the season in Norfolk isn't going to stunt his growth, but should give him an opportunity to refine what needs work and make him all the stronger upon his return to Baltimore. This can also be said for Berken, who has pitched pretty well this spring.

Speaking of all things Orioles, have you or any of your patrons ever found any drink recipes in your mixology guide that would be appropriate for the Birds?

I'm thinking anything Orange and Black. So far I've found this:

http://www.barnonedrinks.com/drinks/t/two-wheeler-5266.html

Anyone have any other O's bar specials?

---
Barkeep's Reply: I am always willing to try out a new drink that fits in this dive.

Guthrie

I dont know why we are talking about Hernandez or Tillman starting in Triple A. Guthrie should be the one going down to the minors.

At this point I would keep Tillman and Hernandez and find out what is wrong with Guthrie in a few starts at AAA. If he gets straightened out bring him back to replace whoever loses the competition between David and Chris. We are trying to WIN, right. Forget contracts and salaries!!!!

Dan,
Berkin, Hernandez and Tillman each deserve another ST start. The problem is there are only 5 ST games left this year. Guthrie's performance tonight is the key.

---
Barkeep's Reply: And it wasn't encouraging.

GUTHRIE! PERIOD! PARAGRAPH!

He just doesn't have it.

I look forward to when they're both in the rotation and Guthrie is somewhere else.

I've got to agree with grizzledvet, Steve and the others who say "Hernandez" for the very reasons they -- and you -- give (and I like Ken's statistical analysis). I also agree that as much as we all like Guthrie and want him to succeed, his days in the rotation are numbered unless he can really turn things around when the bell rings.

I'm jumping in after the fact....so I'll say I would have said Hernandez. Now about that stolen case of Dos Equis....

I'm on record elsewhere - before the decision was made - that I felt it should be Hernandez. The two primary drivers in that decision are the fact that he's three years older than Tillman, and that Tillman hasn't shown yet that he has the command he should have for MLB success. This choice is for NOW, not saying who will have the better MLB career over the next fifteen years.

As for everyone suggesting sending Guthrie down to AAA, it's a nice idea but I'm pretty sure he doesn't have any options left. He may not be pitching like a #2 pitcher in the rotation but he's a lot better than most MLB #5 pitchers and even #4's. So he can't go to Norfolk to work things out - he'll have to do it in Baltimore. However, if he has stunk up the joint through his five April starts and Tillman is making short work of IL hitters in Norfolk, he might have a shorter leash than he'd like.

Why is the choice between Hernandez and Tillman? The question should be asked whether Bergesen deserves to be in the rotation.

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