Minors Report: Opening in rotation

Minors Report: Opening in rotation

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The line between making the rotation and making the team may be exceedingly thin for the Orioles, who have already farmed out three candidates for the vacant fifth starter's slot. Baltimore is still considering a quartet of pitchers, headlined by Matt Albers and Brian Burres, either of whom could also wind up in Triple-A Norfolk.

Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said Thursday that Albers and Burres will both get another chance to pitch on Sunday, and he mentioned Lance Cormier and Jim Johnson as potential in-house alternatives. A few moments later, though, he admitted to some frustration in how the competition has shaped up, and some indecision on how it will conclude.

"Thankfully we don't play for a while, because I couldn't tell you who will be the fifth starter," he said. "I wouldn't even say there's anybody that's in the lead right now after what I've seen. ...I think it will play itself out before we leave here."

Trembley has said that he's looking for some experience in his back-end starter, which explains why youngsters Hayden Penn, Garrett Olson and Radhames Liz were sent to the team's Minor League complex in Sarasota, Fla. Trembley is also considering Albers and Burres for relief jobs, which may ultimately impact whether they make the club.

For now, though, Trembley regards Burres and Albers as the leading contenders for the final rotation slot.

"Look at Albers. He had 18 starts in the big leagues last year, so obviously he had to do something to get that opportunity," Trembley said when asked about their candidacy. "Burres has opportunities to do that as well. Cormer is a multi-innings kind of guy, and so is [Johnson]. It could be a guy here and it could be a guy we don't know about."

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On the move: Trembley said last week that he sent Penn and Olson out so they could ramp up their pitch counts and be ready to start the season at a normal level. If he had kept them in big league camp longer, Trembley said, they'd be pitching two innings per outing and likely wouldn't have the endurance to go deep into games until the end of April.

By extension, that has another implication. If Penn and Olson are at normal pitch counts and thrive during the season's first month, they can separate themselves from their peers to line up as the first contingency plan. The Orioles aren't likely to get through the season with just five starters, so everyone at Norfolk will be watched very carefully.

On the pine: Scott Moore has returned from a recent plunking to get back in the lineup. The former first-round pick has had an eventful spring that has included an illness, an abdominal strain and a bruised right arm. Moore has established himself as a strong candidate to break camp with the team as one of the four reserves.

They're No. 1: Outside of Moore, there are very few first-rounders left in camp. Nick Markakis is entrenched as the team's right fielder and Adam Loewen is assured one of the five rotation slots. Matt Wieters, the fifth overall pick last June, is at the Minor League complex in Sarasota and will likely start the year at Class A Frederick.

What they're saying: "It's almost like there's 15 [players] and you're going to carry 13." -- Trembley, on the crowded scramble for the last few bench slots on his roster

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