Rotating the fifth starter candidates

SARASOTA, Fla. - Let’s see if Steve Johnson can counterpunch Jake Arrieta’s outing last night.

Arrieta didn’t allow a run in six innings last night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, striking out nine batters. He hasn’t been scored upon in his last 14 2/3 innings. He’s struck out 16.

Johnson will try to stay in the fifth starter race today against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte. He figures to get their regular lineup.

Why should anything come easily to him?

Buck Showalter doesn’t rank this competition among the toughest that he’s witnessed as a manager.

“No, not at all,” he said. “Tough competition is when you don’t have any candidates, and I’ve had that here. This isn’t tough. I mean, it’s good. It’s good for the Orioles. I like that.”

Remember when the Orioles signed Adam Eaton because they couldn’t fill out their rotation? Remember how late it happened in camp?

He agreed to terms on March 1, 2009 and was released on May 22 after going 2-5 with an 8.56 ERA in eight starts.

I still cringe when I think about how many hours I wasted at Justin Duchscherer’s locker in the spring of 2011. He never did pitch for the Orioles. I never did regain those hours.

Mark Hendrickson was signed to be a starter in 2009. Now he’s trying to make a comeback as a sidearming reliever, and I like his chances of contributing a lot more this year.

Alfredo Simon, anyone?

What’s happening this spring is a pleasure to watch, and it’s nice to know that Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation will be loaded.

If Arrieta is named the fifth starter, the Tides’ rotation could include Johnson, Zach Britton, Jair Jurrjens and Zach Clark. Arrieta drops down if Brian Matusz beats him out. And Showalter sees promise in Todd Redmond, who made one start last year for the Cincinnati Reds.

But not so fast. It’s Johnson’s turn today and he’s not conceding anything.

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