As the rotation turns

Is it too soon to decide on the Orioles’ opening day starter?

I’m assuming that he’s already on the roster. The Orioles aren’t interested in re-signing Joe Saunders so he can take the ball on April 2 at Tropicana Field. The left-hander would slot lower in the rotation.

Of course, Kyle Lohse would profile as a No. 1 starter on this club, but why go there?

Tillman_Pitch-White-Wide.gifJason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen are the two leading candidates to face the Tampa Bay Rays in the opener. They figure to be slotted Nos. 1 and 2, with the order to be determined in spring training.

Miguel Gonzalez would have to pitch his way out of the rotation. He’s pretty much assured of a spot. Chris Tillman also is expected to make it, especially because he’s out of options.

The challenge is slotting the rest of the starting candidates. And yes, I realize that the order can’t be set Jan. 3, but what else are we going to do this morning?

I’m aware that the landscape would change if executive vice president Dan Duquette packaged a few arms to acquire a hitter, which remains a possibility. In the meantime, who would be your No. 5 starter if the season began today?

Take it step further and give me your No. 6 through whatever. Line ‘em up.

Does Jake Arrieta, last year’s opening day starter, get the nod at No. 5? Maybe it’s Steve Johnson or left-hander Zach Britton. Tommy Hunter, who’s out of options, and left-handers Brian Matusz and Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland also are in the mix.

I’m excluding Tsuyoshi Wada only because he would be less than a full year removed from ligament-reconstructive surgery on his left elbow. He could start out at extended spring training.

Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are expected to begin the 2013 season at Double-A Bowie. Resist the temptation to slot them into your early April rotation.

Notes: The Indians signed infielder Matt Antonelli to a minor league contract, according to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy. Antonelli hit .204/.357/.280 in 29 games with Triple-A Norfolk last year.

Several hundred professional athletic trainers from across the country will be in Baltimore today through Saturday for the annual Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) Baseball Medicine Conference.

The Orioles, including head athletic trainer Richie Bancells and assistant athletic trainer Brian Ebel will host the event, which is designed for athletic trainers and physical therapists who deal with baseball and softball injuries.

The conference is sponsored by the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Foundation and endorsed by PBATS, Major League Baseball Team Physicians Association and National Athletic Trainers’ Association, and is supported by Major League Baseball.

Faculty at the conference include Johns Hopkins orthopedist and Orioles team physician Dr. John Wilckens and Los Angeles Angels medical director Dr. Lewis Yocum.

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