How many left-handed relievers are too many?

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles will take the field this morning at 10 a.m. to stretch and begin another workout.

Third baseman Manny Machado is expected back in camp after being away yesterday. And we finally know that reliever Luis Ayala is staying, which really makes the most sense after his participation in the Caribbean Series. It’s time for him to focus on the Orioles, and to allow them to adjust his schedule so he’s properly rested while still able to get ready.

We can debate whether infielder Jonathan Scoop will benefit from competing in the World Baseball Classic, or if it’s detrimental for him to leave camp while manager Buck Showalter and staff are trying to evaluate him.

Schoop is really excited about representing the Netherlands, and he has no shot at being with the Orioles on opening day, so I don’t think it’s a huge deal that he’s leaving.

Showalter spent a large chunk of the 2012 season wishing that he had a second left-hander in the bullpen to join Troy Patton, who beat out Zach Phillips for the job in spring training. This year, he could be faced with the possibility of taking three southpaw relievers to Tropicana Field for the opener.

Brian Matusz will return to his specialist role if he doesn’t crack the rotation, and the Orioles might need to put Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland in the bullpen.

Would Showalter be comfortable with a seven-man ‘pen that includes three lefties?

“That’s too far down the line to be speculating on,” he said. “I tell you this: We did OK with one left-hander down there, and the reason was the six right-handers were pitching well. That’s just conventionally set up, and I’m not married to that. We’ll take our best seven guys down there and in a perfect world, if you had four left-handed starters, you could change it around a little bit. If you had McFarland, (Zach) Britton, (Wei-Yin) Chen and Matusz in your rotation, why do you need a second left-hander? Those things can fluctuate depending on who your starters are.

“I think it comes more into play when your starters are predominantly right-handed that you need a second left-hander, preferably to be a long reliever. I think Patton is capable of doing both. I think he can pitch long and short, especially with his starting pitching background.”

Sounds like Showalter is open to any combination, and as he stated, the decision could hinge on the makeup of his rotation.

It also depends on how badly the Orioles want to keep McFarland, who can’t be optioned to Triple-A without first clearing waivers and being offered back to the Cleveland Indians.

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