The last cuts are the deepest

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles dive back into their Grapefruit League schedule today, and they’re heading down I-75 south toward Fort Myers for the third time in nine games.

Brian Matusz gets the start against the Boston Red Sox, who are sending Ryan Dempster to the mound. Matusz’s last start also came in Fort Myers, though he faced the Minnesota Twins. He tossed four scoreless and hitless innings, walking one and striking out seven.

Manager Buck Showalter may try to get five innings out of Matsuz today, depending on the left-hander’s pitch count. Wei-Yin Chen threw five yesterday at the minor league complex. Jake Arrieta went 4 2/3 against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

Kevin Gausman also is scheduled to pitch today in what could be his final appearance before the Orioles reassign him to minor league camp. Dylan Bundy already has reported to Twin Lakes Park - he sat behind the backstop yesterday for part of Chen’s start - but the Orioles want to take a longer look at Gausman, since this is his first spring training.

The Orioles still have 48 players in camp and they’ll need to get down to 25. Not today, but it’s getting close.

Here’s the list in alphabetical order:
Jake Arrieta
Luis Ayala
Wilson Betemit
Zach Britton
Russ Canzler
Alexi Casilla
Wei-Yin Chen
Chris Davis
Chris Dickerson
Luis Exposito
Ryan Flaherty
Lew Ford
Kevin Gausman
Miguel Gonzalez
Jason Hammel
J.J. Hardy
Mark Hendrickson
Tommy Hunter
Travis Ishikawa
Conor Jackson
Jim Johnson
Steve Johnson
Adam Jones
Jair Jurrjens
Manny Machado
Nick Markakis
Brian Matusz
Daniel McCutchen
T.J. McFarland
Nate McLouth
Yamaico Navarro
Darren O’Day
Troy Patton
Steve Pearce
Jason Pridie
Nolan Reimold
Brian Roberts
Chris Robinson
Trayvon Robinson
Adam Russell
Daniel Schlereth
Jonathan Schoop
Pedro Strop
Taylor Teagarden
Chris Tillman
Danny Valencia
Tsuyoshi Wada
Matt Wieters

Gausman will be coming off this list. Wada isn’t going to break camp with the team, and he’s most likely headed to the 60-day disabled list. Exposito and Chris Robinson will be reassigned to minor league camp, since a healthy Teagarden is assured of backing up Wieters. Schoop will be optioned.

Jurrjens is still working to refine his delivery and regain his command and velocity, which makes him a long shot to win the fifth starter’s job. He’s clearly fallen behind the other candidates.

Unless room is cleared in the bullpen, it appears that Hendrickson, McCutchen, Russell and Schlereth eventually will be cut. It would probably require a few injuries for Navarro to win a utility job.

That would leave 38.

If Reimold is healthy, the chances of the pure outfielders making the team take a drastic hit. Showalter prefers the last bench spot going to someone who can play first base and the outfield, and being a right-handed complement to Betemit at DH also seems to fit. That doesn’t bode well for Dickerson, Ford, Pridie and Trayvon Robinson.

Valencia doesn’t play the outfield, which hurts his cause. I’m not saying he’s got no shot at making the team. Executive vice president Dan Duquette is drawn to Valencia’s .316/.359/.472 career line against left-handers. It’s just more of a challenge now.

Davis is fine at first base, which works against Ishikawa, whose selling point is his plus defense at the position.

That would leave 32.

Arrieta, Britton and Steve Johnson are competing for the fifth starter’s job. If Hunter claims the last bullpen spot, two pitchers among the trio will be sent down.

This is where it gets the most complicated. Matusz could be the fifth starter, McFarland could be the second left-hander in the bullpen and all three pitchers among the above-mentioned trio could be sent down. This is assuming that the Orioles hold onto Hunter, who’s out of minor league options.

Flaherty is making a terrific impression this spring, but is there room for him if Roberts is starting at second base on opening day, Casilla is the utility infielder and Betemit isn’t traded? He would have to beat out the host of right-handed first base/outfielder/DH candidates. We’re talking Canzler, Jackson and Pearce.

Speaking of that trio, I don’t see more than one making the club, so you can hack off at least two of them.

Again, this is assuming that Roberts, Reimold and Markakis are healthy for the opener, and we’re putting Reimold, Casilla and Teagarden on the bench (if we’re putting McLouth and Betemit in the starting lineup, which I’m doing for the sake of argument).

That would leave me with a headache.

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