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Trembley lines up starting pitchers

Trembley lines up starting pitchers

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles used a simulated game on Sunday to keep their starting pitchers on turn, an assignment complicated by the team's off-day on Monday. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley looked at several pitchers and came to a decision on two others that will heavily impact next week's rotation.

First off, Trembley elected to start Matt Albers on Tuesday, a designation that forces Jeremy Guthrie to work in a simulated game or an intrasquad contest on that day. Trembley also decided Adam Loewen is healthy enough to start on Wednesday, answering one of the team's main concerns and setting the rotation for the rest of the spring.

Loewen, tabbed by many analysts as a contender to pitch on Opening Day, should be able to throw as many as 65 pitches on Wednesday. The southpaw had been affected by a shoulder ailment that kept him from getting loose as quickly as he'd like, and Trembley had him skip a start in the hope of getting his arm strength back where it belonged.

The former first-round Draft pick demonstrated impressive life in a morning side session, and Trembley reinstated him later in the day.

"There was no doubt in my mind that he was fine," the manager said. "I know he was mad at me for two days, but he told me today we did the right thing. I said, 'Absolutely. What's the rush?' The guy is important to us."

Loewen may be returning to the mound, but the Orioles still will need to watch him carefully. The left-hander had problems with a torn left labrum earlier in his career and came back strong despite never having corrective surgery. Loewen got through six starts last year before being shut down for the season with a stress fracture in his left elbow.

This spring started without any hint of a health issue for Loewen, but the Orioles elected to react cautiously when he had trouble warming up. Now that he's thrown again without pain, they're excited to hand him the ball.

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"Alan Dunn said that's the best he's seen him throw all spring," said Trembley, echoing the praise from his bullpen coach. "I talked to Loewen after -- he feels tremendous. ... That's real good news for everybody."

Trembley said the battle for the fifth-starter job may well go to the last week in Spring Training, which explains why he wants to get a look at Albers. The Orioles also have considered southpaws Brian Burres and Garrett Olson for the last starting slot, and Trembley said they'll both probably work in relief of Albers on Tuesday.

Albers, who arrived in the offseason trade for Miguel Tejada, has pitched five innings and allowed two earned runs this spring. Fellow acquisition Troy Patton originally was favored for the fifth-starter job, but he had persistent pain in his shoulder and will undergo season-ending surgery to repair his labrum sometime in the next few weeks.

Trembley repeatedly has said he'd like to carry two long relievers, which lends more than one chance for Burres or Albers to make the team. Last year, Guthrie broke Spring Training as a long reliever and sealed a rotation job with a strong first half. Now, Trembley's hoping Albers, Burres or Olson can seize the job and keep it all season long.

"I wouldn't read anything into it," Trembley said of Albers. "He gets an opportunity to pitch."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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