xml:space="preserve">

SARASOTA, Fla. - A month after the Baltimore Orioles had their first workout, they get their only day off of the spring.

With 18 days to go before the April 6 season opener, there are still a number of questions to be answered.

The starting rotation isn't set, although Jake Arrieta, Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel and Tommy Hunter seem to have pitched well enough so far to be the front-runners. Brian Matusz's past two starts have been impressive enough to give him a solid chance at getting into the rotation.

"Some of the things we hoped would happen are happening," manager Buck Showalter said.

"We're hoping that it gets real tough. We hope that it's not kind of like last year where it's the last man standing. That's the good part of it. If we had to make a call right now, we could do it."

Zach Britton, who has yet to pitch because of lingering stiffness in his left shoulder, was supposed to throw in a minor league game on Monday. He won't because his shoulder became sore after pitching in a minor league game in Lakeland, Showalter said after Sunday night's game.

The future of Brian Roberts is still unclear. Before the game, Roberts, wearing a batting helmet, took ground balls at second base. This week, he took batting practice with the team for the first time in nearly 10 months, when he suffered his second concussion. It's unlikely he'll be ready when the team leaves Florida on April 4.

The team's relief pitching looks stronger with the additions of Luis Ayala and Matt Lindstrom.

Two of executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette's acquisitions, Endy Chavez and Nick Johnson, have had a solid two weeks.

Chavez was 3-for-4 in Sunday night's game, and is batting .462. Johnson went 2-for-2 with a walk in Sunday afternoon's game, and is now batting .348. He may make the team as a combination first baseman/designated hitter.

Nick Markakis' recovery from January surgery on a torn abdominal muscle has gone well. He was the designated hitter in three games this week, and on Tuesday will play in right field for the first time.

"There's a lot of good things going on. If you told me that's where we were going to be at this point, I would have signed up for it in blood," Showalter said.

SIMON TWEAKS GROIN: Alfredo Simon left after two innings when he tweaked his groin in the Orioles' 6-3 win over the New York Yankees before an Ed Smith Stadium record crowd of 8,686 on Sunday night. He thinks he'll be out about a week.

Adam Jones hit a three-run home run and Matt Wieters a solo homer in a four-run first inning.

WADA DEBUT: Three weeks ago, Tsuyoshi Wada had a cortisone shot in his sore left elbow. The Orioles treated him gingerly and on Sunday, he finally made his debut in the other half of the team's split-squad game against Atlanta in Lake Buena Vista. Wada allowed one run and a hit and struck out three in two innings of a 2-2 tiebefore 6.635 at Champion Stadium. He admitted he was not completely at ease.

"There were a bit of nerves. I wasn't too happy to give up a run, and my pitch count was up a little bit," Wada said through his interpreter. "I will do better next time."

Showalter decided to start him against the Braves instead of the televised game against the Yankees, an AL East opponent.

"I could tell he was a little pumped up," Showalter told reporters at the game.

COMING UP: Jake Arrieta will throw four innings in a minor league game on Monday at Twin Lakes Park. On Tuesday, they host the Philadelphia Phillies. Brian Matusz will pitch against Roy Halladay.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement