With Zach Britton essentially out for the start of the season, the Orioles’ rotation picture is becoming a little clearer.
We will know even more after Wednesday, when Tommy Hunter (lower back) makes his spring debut in a major-league game.
If Hunter comes out of that fine, you can probably pencil in Hunter, Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta as four members of the ration – in some order. (My guess is Arrieta, Chen, Hammel, Hunter).
That leaves the fifth spot, with Brian Matusz seemingly the leader in the clubhouse based on the results he has gotten so far this spring (one earned run in 13 innings, though he did allow seven hits on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies in five innings).
Buck Showalter is not closing the door to the competition yet; he’s not even ruling out Britton for the April rotation. But it’s hard to imagine Britton – or Alfredo Simon, who is dealing with a groin strain – to be in the mix.
It’s one of the unfortunate things about spring competition. These guys are teammates, many are good friends, and naturally they pull for each other. But the reality is many are competing for the same job. And one player’s unfortunate injury can open up a door for another. In fact, that’s what happened last year when Matsuz was placed on the disabled list to start the season and Britton was recalled.
I asked Matusz about this Tuesday. Here is the exchange:
Q: Do you pay attention to all the other stuff that’s going on, what Zach is going through? Is it tough to not be able to pay attention to that and just focus on what you are doing?
A: With Britton?
Q: Yeah, with the attrition with him and some of the other guys?
A: With Zach, I see him on a day-to-day basis and he is working hard. He is doing everything he can to get himself healthy and strong. We are all real close. All of us pitchers, especially the starters, are really close, and we are pushing each other and doing everything we can to help each other out. Zach will be fine.
Q: Do you pay attention to those things or do you just worry about yourself?
A: Sure, those guys are my teammates and not only my teammates but friends. And we are there for each other every day, pushing each other to get better and stronger. And that’s what it is all about.