SARASOTA, Fla. - Buck Showalter likes comparisons. Two years ago, he struggled to find an acceptable starting rotation. Now, he's got a different problem.
Showalter calls his upcoming decision "good difficult." He's had plenty of "bad difficult."
The difficult decision is who is going to be the Baltimore Orioles' fifth starter. There are still six candidates: Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, Brian Matusz, T.J. McFarland and Jair Jurrjens.
Jurrjens is the decided outsider because he has a minor league contract. McFarland is a Rule 5 draft pick who's starting to find his way, and after a rocky beginning, is pitching much better.
With just less than two weeks before the roster must be set, Showalter likes his options. He's just not looking forward to telling the losers.
He can tell them that last year the Orioles used more than 50 players and that it's likely he'll recall them from Norfolk if they're needed and pitch well.
Arrieta, Britton and Johnson are a year older than in 2012. All are healthy and want to make the club. It's likely only one of them will.
Despite his four no-hit innings against Minnesota on March 13, Matusz' home is probably the bullpen.
Unless there are injuries or a trade, two of the other three are likely to be unhappy.
"When those conversations come, they're going to be very frank and honest," Showalter said.
"It's their lives. It's their careers."
He'll not try and blow smoke and tell them they're the next Justin Verlander. Showalter will tell them he needs them.
"By what happened last year, and they know where we're going, who knows, three days from know, three injuries, we might be different," Showalter said.
Last year, Arrieta, Britton and Johnson all were recalled and sent down. He's not afraid they'll take the demotions poorly.
"As long as they take the disappointment in the right direction, I'm OK. The direction is to help the Orioles win a championship. I don't begrudge them that emotion. I would have that. I'm not disappointed in them. I'm frustrated for them," Showalter said.
Arrieta, Britton, Johnson and Matusz have combined for 16 1/3 scoreless innings in their most recent starts.
"I want them to ask questions. I want them to hear what we're thinking. They don't have to agree with us," Showalter said.
"I just want you to know here's the thought behind it. What drives players crazy is the unknown. I've told them all the time any time you guys want to come in and hear exactly what's being said about you in a meeting."
In his three years as Baltimore's manager, he's had some players who were disbelieving, who simply could not accept what he was telling them.
"If you lie to guys one time, they'll never forgive you, and you've lost that relationship. If you tell them the truth and he's [angered], he eventually might see it your way, and you know what, he might be right, and I might be wrong, so I try to keep that in mind."
LOOKING AHEAD: The Orioles have 11 games remaining in the spring and 48 players on the roster. One of those, Tsuyoshi Wada will be placed on the disabled list, possibly the 60-day DL if they need a spot.
Six of the 11 games left are against AL East opponents, and another with Minnesota, who they play in the second series of the season.
ODDS AND ENDS: Wei-Yin Chen threw five innings at the Twin Lakes minor league complex to a team of Tampa Bay Rays Class A players. ... The Orioles play Boston at Fort Myers today. Brian Matusz, Kevin Gausman, Daniel Schlereth, Adam Russell and Daniel McCutchen are scheduled to pitch. Ryan Dempster pitches for the Red Sox.