SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles manager Buck Showalter has decided that Chris Tillman will pitch the fifth game of the season on April 6 against the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards. Doesn't matter whether Tillman goes on the disabled list or makes the 25-man roster out of spring training.
Tillman is starting Friday afternoon against the State College of Florida. He had been shut down with abdominal soreness, but appears to be healthy. It's just a matter of building up his innings.
The fourth spot in the rotation remains vacant. Jake Arrieta appears to be the favorite, which would allow him to pitch the home opener for the third consecutive season, but Showalter didn't rule out Brian Matusz or Jair Jurrjens.
Nick Markakis will bat leadoff every inning for State College of Florida to provide more plate appearances. Yes, the rules are flexible.
The Orioles haven't posted their lineup for tonight, but Showalter said Markakis will start in right field, Adam Jones in center, Nolan Reimold in left, Manny Machado at third base, J.J. Hardy at shortstop, Brian Roberts at second base, Chris Davis at first base and Matt Wieters at catcher. Steve Pearce will serve as the designated hitter.
Reliever Pedro Strop and Luis Ayala are scheduled to pitch tonight.
The Orioles are listing 16 players besides Jesse Beal who were brought here from minor league camp: Pitchers Daniel Schlereth, Adam Russell, Tim Bascom, Jason Gurka, Pat Egan, Andy Loomis, Zech Zinicola, Matt Bischoff, Chris Petrini, Marcel Prado and Rob Delaney; infielders Niuman Romero and Buck Britton; catcher Brian Ward; and outfielders Kyle Hudson and Glynn Davis.
Miguel Gonzalez remains the listed starter for Saturday's game against the New York Mets in Sarasota that completes the exhibition schedule.
Update: The Orioles could make one or two cuts later today. Showalter said he has "three or four conversations that I've got to have that are a little bit above that, so I've got to get through them first."
Revisiting Tillman's situation, the impact of placing him on the DL would only be felt on the 25-man roster, since a spot would open up at least temporarily. It seems like he's the fifth starter either way, though Showalter kept mentioning how plans could change if there's a "hiccup" during Friday's start.
By the way, Arrieta tossed seven scoreless innings against the Twins on opening day last year.
Showalter indicated again that Jurrjens could pitch again later this week after X-rays on his right ribcage came back negative.
"When he's ready to pitch from an arm standpoint, I think he'll pitch again," Showalter said. "That's where he is with it. We're going to talk about that at the break."
Showalter said he'll probably avoid using Chris Dickerson tonight after the outfielder injured his right Achilles last night.
Asked why he chose Jesse Beal to make tonight's start, Showalter replied, "As opposed to who?"
Other candidates have already thrown in recent days or are scheduled to pitch on Friday. Plus, Showalter is curious to see how Beal handles the assignment.
"I just asked Rick Peterson and Brian (Graham) who they would recommend, and that was Beal," Showalter said. "He's well-thought of. Tough environment for him, but it will be a nice experience for him regardless."