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Orioles minicamp roster a diverse but incomplete picture of team's starting pitching depth

O's beat writers Jon Meoli and Eduardo Encina preview the upcoming mini-camp. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun video)

Each January, the Orioles invite young pitchers of all ilk to Sarasota, Fla., for a session that allows them to get a head start on spring training and make some assessments as they begin to prepare for the grueling but crucial six weeks they'll spend in Florida.

This year's minicamp crop is no different, with plenty of starters who are or could be knocking on the door along with some relievers who have big league time and those who are likely to earn some before long.

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But just as important as who will be there this year is who won't be, and though there are myriad reasons a player might not appear, it's only natural to note those who won't be in attendance next week when players report Monday morning.

With six weeks left to fill out their starting rotation, the Orioles find a free-agent market that has only changed in ways that makes things worse for them.

The likes of Miguel Castro, David Hess, Yefry Ramírez, Chris Lee and Nestor Cortes — plus Hunter Harvey and Tanner Scott to some extent — all represent a group of players who will be on the fringes of a conversation come February and March for a role in the major league rotation, though they could use more development time to varying degrees.

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But that omits a group of returning pitchers on the 40-man roster who are likely ahead of them on the depth chart for a rotation spot before any free-agent signings. Pitchers such as Mike Wright, Alec Asher, Gabriel Ynoa and Jayson Aquino were absent from the list of attendees.

On this front, it's important to know that players who are on the 40-man roster aren't required to attend, and there's plenty of worthy reasons to be elsewhere working on your craft when spring training is looming.

But as the field staff — manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Roger McDowell — begins to prepare for life with the pitchers they have as opposed to lusting over free agents, those names are certainly high on their list.

Wright's absence can easily be explained, considering he's spent his offseason at his home in Sarasota training at the team facility, though he recently got married in his native North Carolina. Either way, the team knows what shape Wright will be in, and he said at the club's Christmas party last month that the fact that he doesn't have any minor league options has him as motivated as ever to make the club and stick there.

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Asher, who has two minor league options remaining, lost some favor in the organization toward the end of last season despite pitching well in the first half of 2017 and making six starts with the Orioles. He's a Florida native, as are two big league pitchers who will attend — Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier — though he'll still be a big part of the team's spring plans either way.

Aquino, who recently re-signed on a minor league contract, is a known quantity who has been pitching in winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Cortes, reliever Joely Rodríguez and Ynoa also pitched there this winter.

Once again, former Orioles who are hitting the open market aren't finding much of a market for their services.

It could be as simple as they weren't invited, as the organization has seen plenty of them over the years. But as a group of pitchers who will figure prominently as starting depth come spring training assembles, their absence will be noted.

Otherwise, there are only a few names not on the list whose absences seem notable. Other young arms on the 40-man roster who won't be there include December signing Michael Kelly, Rule 5 draft picks José Mesa Jr. and Pedro Araujo, and relievers Jesus Liranzo and Stefan Crichton. Another big name, 2016 top draft pick Cody Sedlock, is still working back from an elbow problem that cut his 2017 season short and he will begin his throwing program at home next week.

There will be plenty for the coaching staff to do next week with the players that are there. But that doesn't stop the thoughts about those who won't.

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