Morrow, Despaigne have slight edge in starter battle

Wide-open race for fifth spot also includes Wisler and Erlin

Morrow, Despaigne have slight edge in starter battle

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres figure to use the remaining five or so weeks of Spring Training to decide who will be their fifth starter in their rotation, a competition manager Bud Black has described as wide open.

That said, Black said Thursday that Brandon Morrow and Odrisamer Despaigne are "maybe out there a touch," in terms of being ahead of the other candidates in camp.

This doesn't qualify as a stunning development, by any means, as Morrow figured to get a strong look at making the rotation after signing a free agent deal with the team in December for $2.5 million, although that deal could earn an additional $5 million in bonuses for starting.

Morrow had other opportunities to sign with teams that wanted him to pitch in relief, but opted to sign with the Padres, who promised him the chance to win a job as a starter.

Morrow has made the third-most starts of any pitcher on staff (108), second only to James Shields (285) and Ian Kennedy (174).

Outlook: Despaigne, SP, SD

Despaigne had a 3.36 ERA last season in 16 starts, flirting with a no-hitter in one of them. He was a much better pitcher at Petco Park (3-1, 1.83 ERA in eight starts) than he was on the road (1-6, 5.31).

The other candidates in camp, lefty Robbie Erlin and righty Matt Wisler, will get chances to win the No. 5 job as well.

Top Prospects: Wisler, SD

All four pitchers figure to get ample opportunities when Cactus League games start, beginning March 4 when the Padres face Seattle.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.