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When Orioles have needed a fifth starter, pitchers have come through with quality starts

The pending return of Orioles veteran starter Chris Tillman means that even with a month on the shelf due to his shoulder issue, the team has only needed to reach outside of its top four starters four times.

Three were in a fifth starter's spot in the rotation, one was Thursday under unique circumstances with Tyler Wilson, and all four gave them quality starts.

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In a season when manager Buck Showalter spent the spring touting the quality depth — as opposed to depth for depth's sake — on the starting pitching side, he's glad it has showed itself early.

"We said that coming out of spring, we thought in that department we were going to be able to cover ourselves a little bit better," Showalter said after Wilson pitched six innings and earned a win after allowing three runs on six hits. "Tonight was a good indicator, and we've got a couple others down there."

While Wilson began the season in the major league bullpen and was shuffled out through no fault of his own, his return to the majors after a few weeks down at Triple-A Norfolk was a massive boost. He was unfortunate to give up a pair of runs after three straight two-out singles in the first inning, but settled in and really only was made to regret a home run by Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia in the third inning. He cruised after that.

Overall, after two years of riding the shuttle between Norfolk and Baltimore, starts like Thursday's can only help Wilson extend his stays with the big league club. But as the other pitchers who have chipped in so far know, it's not always in your control.

Right-hander Alec Asher was sent down Thursday to make room for relief help after making his second start of the season, allowing three runs on six hits in six innings on Tuesday, just as Wilson did. It was his second quality start in as many chances after he went 6 1/3 innings and allowed a run on three hits on April 15 at Toronto.

Likewise, Jayson Aquino was consigned to bullpen duty and then optioned last weekend despite having allowed two runs on six hits in six innings in his first major league start on April 22 against Boston.

That group has contributed four quality starts to the Orioles' 15 in 27 opportunities this year, and Wilson said everyone knows they have a part to play.

"I'm thankful to be a part of what the team's done to start the season," Wilson said. "The guys are playing really good baseball. There's been some situations that have presented themselves to a variety of players like [me, Asher and Aquino]. I think I can speak for us all when I say we're grateful for the opportunities, we're grateful to be a part of a great organization, and a winning organization, and we're ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done — that being winning."

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