Veteran starter Miguel Gonzalez released by Orioles

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Just days before Opening Day, the Orioles have parted ways with an important member of their starting rotation over the last four years.

According to The Sun and multiple outlets, right-hander Miguel Gonzalez was placed on release waivers on Wednesday and becomes a free agent if he goes unclaimed in the next 48 hours. The move comes after he posted a 9.78 ERA in 19 1/3 innings this spring, continuing his struggles from the second half of last season.

The 31-year-old had a minor-league option remaining, but he was set to make $5.1 million in base salary and his release now saves the Orioles all but 45 days of pay from that total if he goes unclaimed. Any club claiming Gonzalez would inherit the entire amount.

Signed from the Mexican League in the spring of 2012, Gonzalez emerged as one of the Orioles’ best starting pitchers in 2012 and posted a 3.45 ERA in 435 2/3 innings in his first three years with Baltimore. His successes included an exceptional seven-inning start in Game 3 of the 2012 AL Division Series, a game in which the Orioles lost to the New York Yankees in extra innings.

Regularly labeled as a weak link in the Baltimore rotation because of underwhelming peripheral numbers — his fielding independent pitching mark was just 4.59 from 2012-2014 — Gonzalez continued to perform well and helped epitomize two playoff-qualifying clubs that were often sold short by critics. After a slow start to his 2014 campaign, Gonzalez posted a minuscule 2.09 ERA over the final three months of the regular season to help the Orioles run away with their first AL East title in 17 years.

His 2015 season was off to a promising start in early June as Gonzalez had posted a 3.33 ERA in his first 12 starts, but he was never the same after going to the disabled list with a groin injury and pitched to a 6.53 mark over his final 14 starts. He also spent most of the final month of the season on the DL with shoulder and elbow concerns.

Gonzalez went 9-12 with a 4.91 ERA over 26 starts (144 2/3 innings) in his last season with the Orioles.

His final spring outing came against Atlanta on Tuesday as he gave up one earned run in five innings, lowering his Grapefruit League ERA from 12.56 to 9.78. However, his fastball was sitting at just 87 or 88 miles per hour after averaging 91 miles per hour last season, and manager Buck Showalter commented after the game that his command still wasn’t where it needed to be. Opponents had batted .412 against him in his six spring starts.

Gonzalez’s departure as well as the absence of Kevin Gausman to begin the season will open the door for some combination of Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, and Vance Worley to join veterans Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Yovani Gallardo in the starting rotation.

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Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.