Reading the tea leaves through this week's Orioles pitching matchups

March 24, 2013|By Eduardo A. Encina | The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — Orioles manager Buck Showalter hasn’t announced the winner of the team’s No. 5 starter competition, but this week’s pitching schedule, which was announced Saturday, would indicate that right-hander Jake Arrieta appears to be in line for the spot.

Arrieta, who was initially slated to start Tuesday’s game against the Twins in Fort Myers, will now pitch in a minor league game at Twin Lakes Park on the same day. Pitching prospect Kevin Gausman will now start against the Twins.

Over the past few weeks, Showalter has sent most of his entrenched starters to minor league games so that they won’t be overexposed facing a bevy of AL East opponents and the Twins, who is the Orioles’ home opener opponent. Most importantly, Arrieta pitching in a minor league game instead of a Grapefruit League game in what would be his final spring start suggests that he’s now working to get his innings in rather than competing for a spot in a big league game.

Both of the other main candidates for the fifth spot are making big league starts this week, with Brian Matusz pitching Sunday against the Pirates and Steve Johnson starting Wednesday night’s game against the Yankees. Matusz could have one more spring start.

Another candidate, Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland, will start Monday’s Grapefruit League game in Fort Myers. That will be McFarland’s first spring start as the Orioles continue to evaluate him. But at this point, if McFarland does make the team -- as a Rule 5 pick, he has to stay on the roster all season or the Orioles will likely lose him --  he will most likely do so as a reliever.

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