DUNEDIN, Fla. -- After Miguel Castro was such a pleasant surprise as a long man in the beleaguered Orioles bullpen in 2017, it wasn't far-fetched to think that he could make the transition to the starting rotation.
While the Orioles have added Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman to a rotation that already featured Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, there is a heated competition for the team's fifth starter.
Castro, Mike Wright Jr. and Rule 5 Draft pick Nestor Cortes Jr. are the leaders. Another possible contender, Gabriel Ynoa, has been effectively eliminated since he's been scratched from Saturday's start against the Pirates with a stress reaction in his legs due to shin splints. Ynoa will be out two to four weeks.
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Wright and Cortes have already started three times. On Friday, the 23-year-old Castro made his first Grapefruit League start, allowing a run on two hits in three innings in the Orioles' 8-5 loss to the Blue Jays.
Castro, who walked two and struck out one, threw 49 pitches, 28 for strikes.
Originally, Castro was supposed to start on Feb. 25, but didn't due to tendinitis in his knees and a sore lower back. He threw two innings in a "B" game against the Pirates on March 2.
Castro says that his injuries and late start haven't put him behind, and he's confident he can still be the fifth starter.
"It's a competition, and I'm going to try to do my best," Castro said through a translator.
Manager Buck Showalter was heartened by his right-hander's start. Castro allowed both his hits in the first, and then improved.
"I thought he ended up having a good outing," Showalter said. "It's that time of year [where] anxiety sometimes shows itself on the field. It isn't the case with him. He doesn't pay any attention to it."
Castro came to the Orioles last April in a trade with the Rockies, who had picked him up in a July 2015 trade with the Blue Jays.
In 39 games with the Orioles last season, Castro was 3-3 with a 3.53 ERA, and was given the opportunity to start the season's next-to-last game.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is fond of Castro, who came through their system with current closer Roberto Osuna.
"I thought he did a great job in Baltimore at the end of the year when we saw him," Gibbons said.
"Kid's got a special place in my heart. We brought both of them up, these really young kids. That's always a gamble. He got off to a great start, and then he struggled. Of course then we sent him out, then he was involved in a trade.
"I don't know what happened in Colorado but he ended up here [Baltimore]. But I know they like him. They're going to try to start him. He came by and visited the guys. …I'm rooting for him, I really am."
Castro smiled when he was asked about facing the Blue Jays.
"I was very excited that it was against my former team," Castro said. "I'm ready for anybody."