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Orioles notes: Fifth starter race not influenced by poor Norfolk results; update on Chris Tillman

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

One turn through the Triple-A Norfolk rotation hasn’t done much to change the Orioles’ thought process in choosing a fifth starter, manager Buck Showalter said.

Showalter, who said late in spring training that he had a good idea of which depth pieces would likely be summoned when the team first needed a fifth starter on April 15, seemed to indicate that the decision they made then could stick. A decision could be announced Thursday, he said, with that player joining the club Friday in Toronto.

“Somebody was saying yesterday, and he made a good point: If everybody there had pitched well their first outing, who would you have taken?” Showalter said. “If everybody pitched poorly their first outing, shouldn’t it be the same? That’s a good point. … I just talked to [Norfolk manager Ron Johnson] about his thoughts. I even talked to [pitching coach Mike Griffin] about [Jayson] Aquino’s workday today that he’s already had. We’ll come together. I’m sure [executive vice president Dan Duquette] and I will talk about it. I’ve already talked with [pitching coach Roger McDowell and bullpen coach Alan Mills]. We’ll see. We’ll see. But we can still go in the direction we thought. A lot also depends on how we use our bullpen here in the next couple of days.”

In their first time through the rotation, only newcomer Alec Asher had a start worthy of major league consideration. Mike Wright allowed five runs (two earned) on six hits in three innings on Opening Day. Gabriel Ynoa pitched Friday in the second game of the year, allowing five earned runs on 10 hits in 2 2/3 innings.

On Saturday, Chris Lee followed it up by allowing eight earned runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings, and Jayson Aquino allowed four earned runs on six hits in three innings Sunday before Asher struck out six in 4 1/3 shutout innings Monday.

Aquino had the best spring of all of them, and by all accounts left Florida as the frontrunner. The club has kept close tabs on everything he has done since being optioned to the minors. That he had a bullpen on Tuesday could keep him on track for a Saturday start, when accounting for the travel day he would need. Wright got the start Tuesday, which essentially disqualifies him.

Until then, the Orioles’ rotation is set with Dylan Bundy and Ubaldo Jiménez starting the two games against Boston and Kevin Gausman and Wade Miley opening the four-game set at the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tillman progressing: Right-hander Chris Tillman is the man the Orioles are replacing in the rotation with that fifth starter. Nearly a month after he received a cortisone injection in his shoulder that the team hoped would clear up the discomfort that has kept him off the mound all spring, right-hander Chris Tillman pitched in an game for the first time.

Tillman worked two innings in an extended spring training game Tuesday in Sarasota, Fla.

“Velocity ticked up a little bit,” Showalter said. “He’ll take a workday there, and then we’ll decide where his three-inning stint will be. It could potentially be Monday at Bowie, but we’ll see how his workday goes. But that was encouraging.”

Plenty of factors will go into deciding where Tillman’s next game will be. He's expected to pitch three innings somewhere.

“Fortunately, he lives there [in Sarasota], but if everything goes well on the workday, we’re leaning towards him joining us and working out of our locker room,” Showalter said. “We won’t be there, but I’d just rather see him get against better competition. I’d say it’s 50-50 whether he stays there for it or here. If there’s an issue with the weather in Bowie, he’ll stay there.”

Around the horn: Showalter said he and the club liked right-hander Joe Gunkel, who was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash or a player to be named later Monday after the team designated him for assignment Friday to clear a roster spot for right-hander Miguel Castro. “We also, I’m sure we like the potential of what the Orioles are going to get back from trading him, too,” Showalter said. “I’m not sure what that is, but I’ll bet it’s something that we can use. I hope it reflects our depth, but we’ll see.” ... The Orioles announced outfielder Michael Bourn and outfielder-turned-pitcher Dariel Alvarez were re-signed to minor league deals. Bourn opted out of his contract in spring training after breaking his finger; while Alvarez likely needs Tommy John surgery after an elbow injury early in his conversion to pitching.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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