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With pitching staff shining, Orioles have decisions looming and no easy answers

With pitching staff shining, Orioles have decisions looming and no easy answers
Orioles pitcher Vance Worley works against the Boston Red Sox during a spring training game, Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Fort Myers, Fla. (Tony Gutierrez / AP)

What a strange world we live in where, even though it's in a small, five-game sample, the Orioles kind of have too much pitching right now.

Specifically on the back end of the rotation, where the candidates double as long relief options, the Orioles are soon going to face a scenario when they no longer can carry the mix of pitchers they have throughout the first week.

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Vance Worley, the fifth starter, turned in a solid start to round out the undefeated homestand with the Orioles' starters posting a 2.28 ERA. Worley seemingly tired toward the end of his outing but kept the Rays off balance twice through the order.

After the game, manager Buck Showalter said Worley pitched well, but he wasn't willing to say he'd be the starter Friday in Texas.

Showalter cited the looming activation of left-handed reliever Brian Matusz (back) on Thursday and the return of starter Kevin Gausman (shoulder) on April 20. That's two spots the Orioles will need to create on the roster, and two of the other candidates to start — Tyler Wilson and T.J. McFarland — both have minor league options.

McFarland hasn't really been mentioned in the starting conversation, but considering his last outing lasted three innings, he's a candidate to start.

It's unlikely the Orioles find a way to add Matusz without creating that roster spot with a pitcher. If they do, that will bring them to when Gausman is activated with two long relievers, and Worley probably ceding his spot in the rotation and joining the bullpen.

The Orioles' bullpen has been lights out so far. They've pitched 12 1/3 innings this season, and the three runs Mychal Givens allowed early in the week are the only ones charged to their account.

That includes 4 1/3 innings Sunday, though it was the type of performances the team can't expect, Showalter said.

"That's a long chain out of the bullpen," Showalter said. "To get through that many outs and not give up a run is pretty remarkable. But you know, we can't continue to do that. Hopefully as the season goes on we'll be able to get deeper in games as guys get some innings and pitch counts under their belts."

Those longer starting outings might eliminate the need for so many long relievers, and make adding someone like Matusz to help in shorter stints even more important. The only other reliever with options is Givens.

Whoever ends up the odd man out this week, provided it's one of those long relief candidates, could get the opportunity to log innings as a starter in Triple-A Norfolk, where the rotation is a bit thin.

The Orioles will need to make roster moves, but it's a good quandary to be in.

The team is returning to full health, Wilson and Mike Wright pitching their way onto the roster, and everyone is playing well enough to keep his spot.

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