ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Orioles remain one game behind the New York Yankees in the American League East with one game to play. They could at least guarantee the top wild card seeding with a victory tonight. They could end up tied with the Yankees and force a one-game playoff Thursday in Baltimore. They could lose and end up in Oakland or Texas for the wild card game.
Manager Buck Showalter isn't sure when or where the Orioles will play after tonight, but he's still meeting this morning with executive vice president Dan Duquette to discuss the playoff roster. He's got a cheat sheet in his pocket.
The roster must be set by 10 a.m. the day of the game. It can change after each round - wild card, division series, ALCS. If the Orioles play the Yankees to determine the division winner, the expanded roster can be used like a regular season game.
"We did a tentative (roster) and I think there are still three or four things still in the air, depending on who we're playing and when we're playing and who's pitching for the other team," Showalter said.
The conventional thinking is to go light on starting pitchers.
"It depends on how you look at it," Showalter said. "Most of those games have the potential to be extra innings, too. And you have to ask yourself, if your starter gets hit with a line drive in the first inning, what are you going to do? You've got to also cover yourself for something like that happening."
The bullpen decisions will be the hardest.
"It's obvious that some people here aren't going to be on that 25 and it's going to be so quick moving after the game's over (tonight), you're going to have to have some quick conversations," Showalter said. "We have some things in place with guys who are going to Sarasota from here on a bus and take part in a camp that's already over there in instructional league. We're actually lucky that our season's ending up an hour at the most from Sarasota. They're all set for X number of players being there and it could be a very short stint there. That roster could change again if we're fortunate enough to continue."
Showalter knows he will be disappointing guys who have contributed to the Orioles' playoff run, only to find out they're being left behind.
"It's a lot like when you tell somebody at the end of spring training," Showalter said. "When I see us invite another guy to camp and you're in the 60s, the first thing that hits me is, there's another tough conversation I'm going to have to have, because you can only take 25. But I think everybody knows they've been a part of what's gone on here and I think this is a very realistic team. They understand that 25 guys are going to be active for that day. There will be some guys we'll take with us who won't be active. There will be some guys who are left back here who could be potentially active the next time. And I think they trust us and they know where we are.
"I could be naive, but I think I've got a feel for what's going on here. This is a team that lives in reality. And they also know in a day or so, they could be right back there with us."
Wherever the Orioles are going.