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1. Who will be the fifth starter?
The Orioles' rotation likely will feature a top two of Jason Hammel, who had a breakout year in 2012 and signed a one-year, $6.75 million deal on Friday to avoid arbitration, and Wei-Yin Chen, who is the only Orioles pitcher who made more than 20 starts in 2012. Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez, based on their second-half performances, are likely in the rotation -- assuming they are healthy and have a relatively uneventful spring. That leaves as many as eight candidates for the fifth spot. From a roster management standpoint, perhaps the leading option is 23-year-old lefty T.J. McFarland, a Rule 5 pick from Cleveland who would have to be offered back to the Indians if he doesn't make the club. McFarland has never pitched in the majors, but was 16-8 with a 4.03 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A last year. The Orioles will give him a long look this spring, and would like to keep him around, so he may get the first chance to stick at the fifth spot. Otherwise, righties Steve Johnson and Jake Arrieta and lefty Zach Britton (above) probably lead the field of fifth-starter candidates. Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter have not been ruled out, but they'll likely head to the bullpen if one of the other candidates excels this spring. Phenom Dylan Bundy and newly acquired Todd Redmond are probably slated for the minors unless they make it impossible for the club to cut them. My guess is that McFarland, Johnson, one of last season's best stories, and Arrieta, last year's Opening Day starter, are battling until the final week of the spring.
September 15, 2012