I think we heard some comments at FanFest that helped answer some questions about spring training.
For one, Nolan Reimold appears to be the clear favorite to be the starting left fielder. It sure seems to be his job to lose, as they say. Buck Showalter confirmed that Mark Reynolds will be the third baseman with Chris Davis at first. And it was pretty much confirmed that Jim Johnson will be in the bullpen, likely as the closer. All of this is subject to a late change, especially pending any further moves, signings or trades.
But to me, the biggest competition in camp, and likely the most interesting to track, will be for the opening day starting five rotation spots.
Ten candidates for the rotation from the 40-man roster include, in alphabetical order, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Zach Britton, Wei-Yin Chen, Dana Eveland, Jeremy Guthrie, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Tsuyoshi Wada.
For now, I’ll leave Jim Johnson and Alfredo Simon among the bullpen candidates, but either could potentially also be rotation candidates Nos. 11 and 12. Some of those candidates said Saturday they welcome the challenge for rotation spots.
“I think that is a good thing,” right-hander Jake Arrieta said. “More competition, I think, will bring the best out in the guys. I’m all for it. We’ve got a great group that has built relationships on and off the field and we’re all pulling for each other. No matter what happens, we’ll be happy for the guys that do start with the team. You usually don’t have five guys go through the whole season in the rotation, so guys will get their opportunity to pitch well.”
Zach Britton said a pitcher needs to remain confident that he will make the starting five, even with all the competition.
“I think you have to think that way,” Britton said. “If you don’t, you’re going to get lost in a hurry, especially with the guys we brought in. But I know I still have stuff I’ve got to work on. That is one thing I’m kicking myself for, because last year I didn’t work on anything that I needed to work on. I just tried to put up results to make the team. This year, results matter, but it is beneficial for me and the team if I go in there also and work on the things I need to work on.”
Eveland was acquired by the Orioles in a deal with the Dodgers at the Winter Meetings. The 28-year-old lefty went 12-8 with an ERA of 4.38 last season at Triple-A and 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five September starts for Los Angeles.
Eveland says camp competition has been a way of life for him at the major league level.
“Every spring training, pretty much, I’ve gone into, maybe besides 2009, I’ve had to go in to try and win a job. So it’s always been a competition for me. I always take spring training seriously. I have to be ready to go day one, so I’m used to being in that situation,” Eveland said.
One question I had that Buck Showalter put to rest on Saturday is just how the team would get enough innings in to properly judge each of these starter candidates. Showalter said he has a handle on that.
“It is just a matter of creating games and I can do that,” he said. “We’ve already got B games lined up and we have intrasquad games and Triple-A. We will get innings. I think the way that Rick (Adair) and I looked at it, it’s about the 15th of March until we have to start making decisions. We’ve designated the 11 or 12 guys we’ll have in that capacity.
“I also have a feeling something could change between now and that time. If you talk to Dan (Duquette), there are a lot of scenarios flying around out there in the trade market.”
That last comment is interesting. It sure sounds like the Orioles are in on some trade talks to acquire yet another starter to add to this mix. The process to rebuild a rotation that was the worst in baseball last year is still ongoing.
What is your take?: Who do you think will emerge as the starting five? Do you see a long shot candidate grabbing a spot? How will the young pitchers like Britton, Matusz, Tillman and Arrieta fare?
Update: This is interesting. Former Orioles executive Jim Duquette just posted this on Twitter:
#Orioles are definitely in on PF - it remains to be seen if they’ll go to the “magic” number. But there’s plenty of motivation to sign him.
A few minutes later he posted this:
Reasons for O’s to sign PF over Nats-1.He’s wicked good. 2. Get back fans that left them for the Nats. 3. Keep tv interest highr than Nats.
Ken Rosenthal added this via Twitter:
Will be interesting to see how serious #Orioles are on Fielder. Duquette had Mo Vaughn in BOS. Angelos stickler for conditioning. #MLB