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Lefty trio battles for spot in Orioles' bullpen

Showalter impressed with Hart, Edgin and Rodriguez in spring play
Special to MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One of the more interesting position battles at Orioles Spring Training is for the left-handed reliever's spot. Baltimore has three main candidates for the job.

The incumbent is Donnie Hart, who enjoyed a great debut in 2016, when he allowed just one run in 18 1/3 innings. Last season wasn't as good for the 27-year-old, who had two stints at Triple-A Norfolk. He finished with a 3.71 ERA in 51 Major League appearances.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One of the more interesting position battles at Orioles Spring Training is for the left-handed reliever's spot. Baltimore has three main candidates for the job.

The incumbent is Donnie Hart, who enjoyed a great debut in 2016, when he allowed just one run in 18 1/3 innings. Last season wasn't as good for the 27-year-old, who had two stints at Triple-A Norfolk. He finished with a 3.71 ERA in 51 Major League appearances.

Hart's principal challengers are Josh Edgin and Joely Rodriguez, both of whom are non-roster invitees.

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Edgin has the most Major League experience. In five seasons with the Mets, he notched a 3.49 ERA in 177 appearances. Rodriguez, who allowed one hit over 1 1/3 scoreless innings in the Orioles' 9-8 loss to the Twins, had a 5.40 ERA in 38 games with the Phillies from 2016-17.

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"Every time you go out there, you're trying to make the team," Hart said. "I did the same thing last year. Nothing's guaranteed if you have options."

Hart does have Minor League options, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter seems to be impressed with Edgin, in particular. Edgin, whose wife is expected to deliver a child this week, threw an inning in a simulated game on Tuesday in Sarasota, Fla.

"There's a reason he's been in the big leagues for four or five years," Showalter said. "He kind of knows his way around relieving. He's got a good approach. You can see why the Mets used him so long. He was a priority for us when he became available. He was a guy that kind of fit the mold. He defended himself well against some right-handed hitters in a short period of time."

Video: STL@NYM: Edgin strands two in the top of the 7th

Edgin surprised many in the industry when he signed a Minor League contract with the Orioles on Nov. 28, early in the offseason. A Pennsylvania native, Edgin recently moved near Hagerstown, Md., which is about 90 minutes away from Baltimore.

"It was a good situation, we feel like, for me," Edgin said. "My family is from close to there. Grew up watching them on the TV my whole life. They reached out early, and when they reached out, I was pumped out about it. I don't know there was one specific thing about it."

Edgin has thrown three hitless innings this spring, and while Rodriguez has 4 1/3 scoreless innings, he did give up a double to the Twins' Joe Mauer on Tuesday that allowed three runs to score. Hart has a 6.00 ERA in three innings of Grapefruit League play.

"There's a fine line you walk, being game ready right now and then paying the price with two months left in the season, as opposed to being close to game ready right now and then being ready to go when the season starts," Hart said. "You can go out there and blow it out for six innings in Spring Training and be completely ready or you can be really close to it and then when the season starts be really ready for it."

Showalter is intrigued by Rodriguez, who the Orioles invited to their January minicamp.

"A guy like Joely, when you look at the track record and see what you're seeing here, they're two different things," Showalter said. "He's 26, he's pitched a lot of baseball. What you're seeing here so far, it doesn't really fit the track record."

As for Hart's track record, the Orioles feel like they know what they're getting.

"We've got a pretty good feel of what Donnie's going to do," Showalter said.

Rich Dubroff is a contributor to MLB.com.

Baltimore Orioles, Josh Edgin, Donnie Hart, Joely Rodriguez