On March 5th the Orioles will take on the Pittsburgh Pirates at 7 PM in Sarasota, a game that will be shown locally in the mid-Atlantic region on MASN. Not only will it be the first spring training game for both teams, but it’ll be a rare night game. Most spring training games are under the blonde afternoon sun. Prime time for the O’s! Position players are to report tomorrow although many of them are already in camp. That gives Buck Showalter and staff a little over a week to iron things out before the beginning of the exhibition season. Obviously the pitching staff is what remains up in the air more than anything else, so I suppose the question du jour has to be who’s pitching on March 5th?
If you’re an Abbot & Costello fan like me, you know that the proper answer to who’s pitching? Is WHO’S NOT PITCHING (because who’s on first)! Before getting into who gets the start, it’s worth mentioning that most managers have a set rotation of pitchers in each spring game. In most cases they’ll even announce this rotation to the media before the game starts. This is what one can expect at least through the first two-thirds of the Florida Grapefruit schedule, with the last could of weeks being dedicated to getting the starters into a true rotation. Managers will also manage that last third of the exhibition games more so as they would a regular season game in terms of starters and the bullpen.
But going back to that first game, traditionally teams would want their ace to start even in spring training. However the O’s don’t have a clear-cut ace, remember? I suspect that Buck Showalter has either one pitcher or a couple of pitchers in mind right now; however I think that the final decision is far from being made. As I said the Orioles will have just over a week of workouts before the game. Odds are it’ll boil down to who looks the best and works the hardest. Bearing that in mind, whoever that person is will not necessarily be the starter on Opening Day on April 6th in Baltimore. Is that person in the discussion to be the Opening Day starter and might he be slightly ahead of the rest of the field? You never want to assume anything, however I think it’s safe to at least entertain that idea. But the title of Opening Day starter will be given based on someone’s performance over the entire course of spring training, not a few workouts or one game.
Whoever gets the start won’t be in the game for too long. I would bet three innings at the most before the bullpen takes the reins. However at the very least the pitcher that gets the nod that night against Pittsburgh might give us a shadow of an idea of what’s going through Buck Showalter’s head in terms of building the rotation. Without having any advance knowledge of whom it might be or of what Showalter might be thinking, I’d guess either Jake Arrieta or Tommy Hunter. Jason Hammel might be a dark horse candidate as well, but Arrieta or Hunter is my guess. (Keep in mind that we’ll see our share of all three pitchers and the rest of them throughout spring training.)
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Update (1:50 PM): According to Roch Kubatko of masnsports.com pitcher Jason Berken “tweaked” a hamstring during drills today. Manager Buck Showalter is unsure of the severity of the problem, however he’ll know more once he talks to the training staff. In an unrelated matter, former Oriole outfield prospect Matt Angle was claimed off of waivers by the L.A. Dodgers today. Best of luck to Angle!