What will be the separating factors in O's pitching competition?

It won't be too long now before spring training heads for its final days and the main focus surrounding the team will likely be on which players make the Orioles' final 25-man roster that will take the field on opening day.

Over the next few weeks, there will be some debate and arguing, as there is every year, that the best 25 players should head north. Of course, this seems to make perfect sense, and why would a team not include one of its top 25 players on the roster to start a new season?

But it is not quite that simple. Bryce Harper is likely one of the Nationals' best 25 now but he could still begin the year in the minors. I have seen some fans refer to Dylan Bundy as good enough to make the Orioles right now. While that is surely debatable, he won't make the opening day roster this year and no one is debating that.

But player options also factor into the equation and there is always a debate over that. Some fans take issue with a club sending a young player with options back to the minors over another that makes the team with perhaps lesser stats during the spring. It seems to happen every year and I'm pretty sure the Orioles are far from the only team with that issue facing them.

If the Orioles selected a starting five of only players that are out of options, they could put Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter, Dana Eveland and Alfredo Simon in there to man four of the spots.

Troy Patton, a bullpen pitcher not certain to make the final roster, is out of options and that may factor into the final decision on the left-hander.

Position players that could be on that final roster bubble that are out of options include Taylor Teagarden and Jai Miller. I did not include Nolan Reimold or Chris Davis, who both may well be starters, but both are out of options.

If two players competing for a spot are close in their spring camp battle and one has options, that can be a tiebreaker for many clubs. Then they don't risk losing either player and wind up keeping both in the organization rather than exposing one to waivers in an attempt to get him to the minors.

While the Orioles have a lot of pitchers in camp competing for roster spots, there is also a long list of those candidates that could be sent to the minors. That list includes Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Tsuyoshi Wada, Wei-Yin Chen, Matt Lindstrom, Luis Ayala, Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken, Darren O'Day, and Zach Phillips.

The players with options provide the brass with options.

A lot of fans will be watching Arrieta, Britton and Matusz very closely for a variety of reasons. If one or all three pitch well in spring training, but still get sent out to the minors, there will for sure be some frustration expressed here in the comments section.

With a new GM in town (OK executive vice president), it is fair to wonder how much loyalty there will be for players that were already here before Dan Duquette took over and how much more of a chance may the players that he acquired get?

The Orioles, to me, still seem very committed to the big three of Arrieta, Britton and Matusz and I don't think sending any or all to the minors would show any less a commitment. They are still a big part of this club's future, maybe the biggest part. But it is up to them and they need to pitch well.

The Orioles, as a losing club, should still be in a mode to be patient with a young player, especially a pitcher, as they develop and mature. But the player has to show enough progress to earn the patience. It's a fine line between giving the young player the room to grow and get better and giving him too many chances at the expense of someone else getting that playing time or those innings.

Fans get attached to guys they have been rooting for and it's human nature to see some of those players as better than a new acquisition they haven't had a chance to see or root for yet.

In the end, Duquette and Buck Showalter may just be looking for the best players with little or no regard to how or when the Orioles acquired the player.

With all these factors swirling around it's going to be an interesting next few weeks.

What is your take?: How much loyalty, if any, should the club show to a homegrown player compared to one just recently acquired? How should the club handle those players with options? Does it send the wrong message if a young pitcher like Arrieta or Britton goes back to the minors or might that be the best thing for their development? Do you have a dark horse candidate to make the pitching staff?

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