Numerous roster decisions looming for Birds

CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Baltimore Orioles leave Florida on April 4. Between now and then, there's much to be decided, a lot of problems to be debated.

And, that's good.

"We're probably ahead of where we were last year because of depth. We've got some tough baseball decisions to make that don't involve waivers or options. They involve judging ability," manager Buck Showalter said.

With just nine days before camp ends and just a week until the end of major league games for the Orioles, the team still has a bloated roster of 47 players.

Many will be reassigned to minor league camp this week, as Showalter and executive vice president for baseball operations Dan Duquette pare the roster.

Four of the 47 will likely be placed on the disabled list: Zach Britton, Brian Roberts, Alfredo Simon and Taylor Teagarden.

When spring training began five weeks ago, there were 12 plausible candidates for the starting rotation, and now two of them are hurt.

The Orioles had hoped that Britton, who's suffering from a sore left shoulder, would have been able to at least challenge for a starting spot. He hasn't been able to throw in a major league game this spring.

Simon had to be removed from his March 18 start after two innings with a strained groin, and hasn't pitched since.

Roberts has made progress in his recovery from the concussion he suffered last May, but isn't close to being able to play. Taking batting practice with music playing from the P.A. system and watching a few innings from the dugout represents progress.

Teagarden has a lower back injury, and Ronny Paulino will likely be Matt Wieters' backup.

Jake Arrieta, Wei-Yin Chen, Tommy Hunter and Jason Hammel seem to have solidified spots in the starting rotation with Brian Matusz and Tsuyoshi Wada jockeying for the final spot.

The bullpen seems improved with Jim Johnson set to be the closer. Matt Lindstrom, Luis Ayala and Kevin Gregg, who lost the job to Johnson last August, also set, though the Orioles would like to trade Gregg and his $5 million salary.

If he loses out on a starting spot, Wada could be the long man. Troy Patton and Zach Phillips are battling for a role as a left-handed reliever, and right-hander Pedro Strop, who is out of options, is a leading possibility for the final bullpen spot.

Wieters, Chris Davis, Robert Andino, J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds, Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are likely to be the starting eight in the field. Markakis has recovered from offseason surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle.

Paulino, Wilson Betemit, Rule 5 draft choice Ryan Flaherty and Nick Johnson are likely to fill out the roster. Johnson, who hasn't played regularly in the majors since 2009, is batting .306 and could be the designated hitter and play some first base.

MATUSZ HASN'T TAKEN THE FIFTH: Brian Matusz threw 83 pitches in 4 2/3 innings on Sunday as the Orioles played to a 3-3 tie with the Philadelphia Phillies before 9,137 at Bright House Field.

Matusz made it through five innings in his previous start five days before against Philadelphia, and Showalter wanted to see him finish six.

"He survived well without what he has spoiled us with," Showalter said. "I thought he gave us a chance to win. He's been pretty good this spring."

Matusz's fastball didn't have the hop it had in the past.

"Not as sharp today, Just some things I'm working on a little bit, wasn't all there," Matusz said.

Jason Berken made his first appearance this spring, a scoreless sixth inning. Berken hadn't pitched due to a strained left hamstring.

COMING UP: The Orioles play the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton on Monday night. Tommy Hunter and Jim Johnson are scheduled to pitch for the Orioles. Erik Bedard is Pittsburgh's probable.

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