Orioles outright Leicester to Triple-A

Orioles outright Leicester to Triple-A

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles narrowed the field of their fifth-starter derby on Tuesday, outrighting Jon Leicester to Triple-A Norfolk. Leicester, who can decide to accept the assignment or opt for free agency, was regarded as a darkhorse possibility to break camp as the team's fifth starter.

Now that Leicester is gone, manager Dave Trembley says the choice becomes significantly easier.

"It's two guys. It's [Brian] Burres and [Matt] Albers," he said. "I think that was made very clear."

Leicester's demotion was a surprise in that it gives Trembley one less option for his bullpen. The manager has held that whoever of Leicester, Burres or Albers didn't make the rotation would likely fill a long relief spot. Now that Leicester is out of the picture, the path appears to be clear for the Orioles to carry both Burres and Albers on their Opening Day roster.

Trembley acknowledged that possibility on Tuesday and confirmed that a few of his Triple-A pitchers might not be locked out just yet. The Orioles farmed out Radhames Liz, Garrett Olson and Hayden Penn early in the hope that they'd be able to pitch on a regular basis, and Trembley said on Tuesday that they might resurface at some point.

"I don't know if they're in the equation, but that possibility exists," he said. "That's one of the reasons why we did what we did -- because I needed to get those guys stretched out, just like Jon Leicester.

"I would anticipate that there could possibly be some turnover. We need to have guys available, and not only available, but we need guys to be ready. I think there were guys available, but I don't necessarily think they were ready last year."

Baltimore's staff is pretty much set, with only the last rotation slot and a bullpen position or two remaining undecided. On Tuesday, Trembley said that he would make a final decision in the next few days and share it with his team on Thursday. That would likely result in a Friday announcement to the press, making things official the very day the Orioles leave Florida.

Burres, who had been scheduled to pitch on Monday, took Leicester's start. And Albers, who has been used as both a starter and reliever this spring, is scheduled to make his final Grapefruit League appearance on Wednesday. Trembley said the Orioles won't use their fifth starter the first time through the rotation, which gives him some leeway.

And even if there is no spot for Leicester, he said, the Orioles would like to keep him at Norfolk.

"He was put on waivers and cleared waivers," he said. "We would still like to have Jon Leicester if he chooses to do it. He can take his 72 hours if he wants, but if he wants to pitch for us he has to get to Norfolk and get stretched out."

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