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Little clarity added to Orioles roster decisions after Tuesday's developments

For a team that entered spring training with few roster decisions, the Orioles are preparing for a spring training stretch run full of 11th-hour complexities in arriving at their Opening Day 25-man roster.

Following the team's 5-4 Grapefruit League win over the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium, Orioles manager Buck Showalter was non-committal whether left-hander Wade Miley — who had been limited to just nine spring training innings going into the day because of a lingering flu bug — had done enough to show he was physically ready for Opening Day.

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Earlier in the day, the team added right-hander Alec Asher in a trade with the Philadelphia Philles for cash or a player to be named later. Showalter said he'd like to get the 25-year-old into a game before camp breaks Thursday, and while Asher is an optionable piece who can both start and pitch in relief, his addition makes for a crowded rotation at Triple-A Norfolk.

As for the more known commodity, Miley gave Showalter the four innings he desired in his final Grapefruit League start, and after the game, the pitcher said he passed all the hurdles to consider himself ready.

But there are few teams who can manipulate the 25 spots on an active roster like the Orioles, and though putting Miley on the new 10-day disabled list to open the season would give the team just three starting pitchers on Opening Day, they could maneuver it given the fact they have two off days in the season's first four days.

"I'm not going to commit until I see how he feels the next couple of days, see how the work day goes, but today was a step in the right direction to make one of the five starters for us," Showalter said.

While Miley might be ready, a DL move could alleviate the Orioles of their most difficult roster decisions heading until Sunday's deadline to submit their 25-man roster. They would be able to carry 15 position players, including Craig Gentry and Trey Mancini — both of whom have done everything possible to earn roster spots — and Rule 5 pick Aneury Tavarez.

The Orioles could last until April 9 — the same day Miley would be eligible to return from the disabled list because the move can be backdated to March 30 — with just three starters. But the Orioles aren't afraid to operate a day-to-day roster shuffle in order to keep their commodities in tow.

An Opening Day roster so heavy on position players is unconventional — most teams would accommodate extra relievers — but because this Orioles team has several optionable long relief options, the bullpen can remain fresh even if it is taxed early.

After Tuesday's game, Miley sounded like a pitcher who had every reason to believe he would open the season on the active roster.

"I felt good," Miley said. "I felt like I didn't get super tired at all. Got the pitch count back to where I wanted to be at. Everything went well."

Earlier in the day, Showalter talked about the importance of having five legitimate major league options in the starting rotation at Triple-A Norfolk. And after optioning right-hander Mike Wright on Tuesday and left-hander Chris Lee three days earlier, he added that the team's fifth rotation spot, a hole created by Chris Tillman opening the season on the disabled list, could be a call-up from the minors.

"We want to have five guys starting in Norfolk who we feel we can go get and that's got a chance to be a real strength for us," Showalter said.

Now, the team adds Asher to the fold.

Meanwhile, Showalter sounds no closer to deciding on a fifth starter, entirely willing to allow the first week of the minor league season to play out before making a choice between Wright, Lee, left-hander Jayson Aquino and right-hander Gabriel Ynoa. Right-hander Tyler Wilson is also in the mix, but he might win one of the team's long-relief spots.

In fact, Showalter might pluck two arms from the group if he believes Miley will need extended time.

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"All these guys we're sending down are still in play for really the fourth and fifth spot, depending on what happens with Miley," Showalter said before Tuesday's game.

Showalter said right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez is prepared to start either April 7 or 8 against the New York Yankees, depending on the team's decision on Miley.

The addition of Asher also fills the Orioles' 40-man roster. If the team carries Gentry — who is hitting .333 with a .443 on-base percentage and is 7-for-7 on steal attempts while playing plus defense — it must first open a roster spot.

Because Gentry is on a straight minor league deal and does not have an opt-out until June the team can send him to the minors to start the season. But given the spring he's had, that will be difficult.

"I don't know what more you can ask from a guy to be noticed and to be considered than what Craig's done," Showalter said.

Then there's Mancini, who boasts a .339 average and a team-high extra-base hits this spring. He received tempered compliments from Showalter on his brief play in right field.

"I kind of like what I've seen in the outfield," Showalter said. "… I'm not surprised. I haven't been disappointed in him in the outfield."

Even though the team will place Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander on the disabled list to open the season, they want to figure out a way to carry Tavarez, whose exemplary athleticism has been overshadowed by a lack of instincts and experience.

Asked about the lineup dilemma before Tuesday's game, Showalter didn't entertain the idea of 15 position players, but said the idea of carrying 13 or 14 is easy math.

"I think it's pretty black and white what we're picking from," Showalter said. "… You've really got 13 or 14 [position players] depending on how you go."

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