Pleading for the fifth starter

I can still feel the Sarasota sun beating down on me as Orioles manager Buck Showalter revealed the last few names in his rotation during a late spring training batting practice. He confirmed that Jake Arrieta would be the No. 4 starter rather than No. 5, and that Chris Tillman would be the fifth starter after coming off the disabled list.

It seemed simple enough, except that the order is pretty twisted now and Arrieta is no longer in it.

Arrieta was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after four starts. Josh Stinson was recalled, surrendered four home runs in one start and was sent down. Zach Britton was recalled, surrendered six runs and 10 hits in six innings in his only start and was sent down.

When did the 2013 season turn into a game show?

I’m waiting to hear: “Freddy Garcia, come on down!”

The Orioles need someone to take Britton’s turn. They still list Saturday’s starter as TBA, though Showalter told reporters in Seattle that he could push back Miguel Gonzalez to that day and create an opening on Friday. Either way, we could be staring at another roster move.

It’s OK if your eyes glaze over. I can barely read my screen.

The only way to avoid a roster move would be if Zach Clark made the start. He’s in the bullpen as a fresh arm.

It’s more likely that Clark is optioned back to Norfolk and the Orioles select the contract of Garcia or Jair Jurrjens. They also could recall Arrieta, but the idea of sending him down was to get him straightened out mentally. It’s never easy to determine if a pitcher is ready when you’re looking beyond his stats and physical presence.

It’s probably too soon.

The Tides are off today. Arrieta is scheduled to start Thursday. If he takes the ball, we know he’s not flying to Anaheim.

Garcia is 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA in five starts, with two walks and 21 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings. Jurrjens is 2-1 with a 2.64 ERA in five starts, with 13 walks and 20 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings. They both have opt-out dates in their contracts, and the Orioles want to keep them in the organization.

They don’t have to worry about Jurrjens until June 15. Garcia could have opted out after Sunday’s start, but he agreed to stay until at least May 14.

Here are two bold assumptions: Garcia didn’t have any major league offers, and he sensed that the Orioles were going to give him an opportunity.

If you’re going in opt-out order, it makes sense to give Garcia the first crack at starting. It also is the fair decision if you’re comparing stats.

On the other hand, Jurrjens was considered the bigger signing. It certainly took the longest to finalize, going from a major league to a minor league deal after his physical. It took less time to build Camden Yards.

Steve Johnson doesn’t factor into the equation because he was optioned last night and must stay down for at least 10 days unless he’s replacing an injured player. The Orioles want him to make more starts with Norfolk. He’s going to get his chance, too.

Clark would be the easy choice for this weekend, being on the 40-man roster and on the West Coast. But if the Orioles kept it simple, it wouldn’t be the same game show.

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