3 rotation spots up for grabs at Spring Training

Rule 5 picks and Minor Leaguers battle as O's keep eyes on FA's

February 13th, 2018

SARASOTA, Fla. -- As the Orioles' pitchers and catchers officially reported on Tuesday, the biggest camp battle is also the club's biggest question mark: the starting rotation.

What we know is and will be atop the O's rotation.

Beyond that, nothing is certain, and there will likely be one or two additions from Tuesday's group -- possibly from Rule 5 Draft picks -- before Spring Training ends. The O's have yet to add a starting pitcher of impact, something that was a top priority on their offseason to-do list.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette noted at FanFest that he'd like to have pitching moves made by March 1.

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Realistically, the club isn't expected to fill all three open spots with newcomers, meaning that there will be plenty of competition fostered during the Grapefruit League season. And with several pitchers out of options, the O's are going to have to make some tough decisions this spring, regardless of who they bring in.

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Mike Wright Jr. is out of Minor League options -- meaning if he doesn't break camp with the team he will be exposed to waivers -- and he will get a look as a rotation option. Wright has 21 big league starts under his belt, though all 13 games he appeared in last season were out of the bullpen, where some in the organization think he may be best served. The righty is 6-9 with a 5.86 ERA in 43 career games in the bigs.

 who was a bright spot for the club last year in the bullpen, will get a chance as a starter this spring. Castro made his first career start down the stretch for the O's last year, and will have to make a seamless transition in the six weeks of camp to establish himself as a go-to guy every fifth day. He was valuable pitching multiple innings out of the 'pen last year, appearing in 39 games, and pitching to a 3.53 ERA.

has made seven career starts, including four last year, but is also out of Minor League options. Ynoa went 2-3 with a 4.15 ERA in nine games last year.

and Asher Wojciechowski also have some big league starting experience, and could be stretched out early in spring, though it doesn't appear at this point that either are being billed as starters. That could certainly change during camp. , a non-roster invitee who is out of options, could also be a candidate to be stretched out to fill the role of long relief/spot starter.

The O's plan to carry a Rule 5 pick already this year, in outfielder , making it tough to carry another. But they like the upside of young lefty Nestor Cortes Jr., who could be a bullpen piece if he makes the team, but also is dark horse to make it as a starter.

The Orioles' rotation will be closely watched all spring, as the club tries to make some late moves and fill things out behind Bundy and Gausman. They remain interested in righty Chris Tillman, who was given permission to throw at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. They've also checked in with various clubs on trade potentials.

The real question for the pitchers who reported on Tuesday is how many open spots will there ultimately be to fight for?