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Buck shielding arms from divisional opponents

Manager skipping regularly scheduled starts vs. AL East teams
Special to MLB.com

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Nineteen of the Orioles' 32 Grapefruit League games are against American League East opponents and the Twins, against whom the Orioles open the season.

Due to that schedule, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has tried to shield his established starters -- Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman -- from starting in those games.

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Nineteen of the Orioles' 32 Grapefruit League games are against American League East opponents and the Twins, against whom the Orioles open the season.

Due to that schedule, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has tried to shield his established starters -- Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman -- from starting in those games.

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That decision has required some inventive maneuvering. Neither Cashner nor Tillman has pitched in a regularly scheduled Grapefruit League game, and Bundy, whose turn would have come on Wednesday, didn't start against the Rays.

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Mike Wright Jr., who is competing for the team's fifth starter spot, started instead of Bundy in the Orioles' 7-2 win over the Rays.

Showalter had Bundy start a four-inning simulated game on the back fields of Ed Smith Stadium. Bundy had allowed 10 runs in 4 1/3 innings in his first two starts.

"I think they get better work done," Showalter said. "We're really trying to simulate as much as possible with umpires, hitters and baserunners."

Cashner, who signed a two-year contract on Feb. 15, is scheduled to start Sunday against the Phillies after throwing a pair of simulated games. It hasn't troubled him that he hasn't pitched in regularly scheduled games.

"No, because this is by design," Cashner said. "I think this has been a thought-out schedule. I sat down with them and went over it. For me, it gives the opportunity to those young guys and lets me work on stuff that I need to work on for the season, and lets me get ready."

Because the Orioles train near the other AL East teams, conflicts are unavoidable.

Wright has been one of the starters whom Showalter hasn't shielded. Wright has made three starts this spring, two against the Rays and one against the Cardinals. He'd like to be one of those shielded in the future.

"Yeah, absolutely. It would be nice to be in the talks for Opening Day," Wright said. "Right now, I'm trying to make the roster, so Opening Day roster is what I'm looking for, and whoever I have to pitch against, I'm fine with that."

Video: Mike Wright discusses competing for rotation spot

The Orioles train near the Phillies and Pirates, but most AL East teams would prefer not to play their division opponents, too, and that makes compiling a schedule that all the teams in the division are happy with a most difficult task.

"Through the years, we've had so much familiarity with it, I'm not going to lend any more to it -- if I can help it," Showalter said. "With the people we have and their experience level, the games that are being played, they'll be getting a lot of reps. Most of them will have three "A" games under their belt, so it will work out."

The Orioles' spring schedule includes games with the Cardinals and Mets, including a trip to Florida's East Coast next week, so the problem will be temporarily alleviated.

"It's not good to play in your division the whole spring," Showalter said. "I don't think anybody likes it. I've seen everybody try it differently. …There's no blueprint."

Rich Dubroff is a contributor to MLB.com.

Baltimore Orioles, Dylan Bundy