Brian Matusz struggled through four innings of work, giving up five runs on nine hits, as the Orioles went on to win 12-10 against the Pirates in Sunday's spring training contest. Still gunning for the final rotation spot, Matusz may make one more appearance this spring to try and win the spot.
The Orioles final roster will be greatly determined by the winner of the rotation battle. The two most likely candidates are Matusz and, last year's Opening Day starter, Jake Arrieta. There are also a few dark-horses that have yet to be reassigned: Steve Johnson, Jair Jurrjens and, perhaps the pitcher creating the most chaos, T.J. McFarland.
Both Buck Showalter and GM Dan Duquette have taken a liking to McFarland, who was the club's Rule 5 pick back in December. It is unlikely that the 23-year-old lefty will be given the starting role despite him getting a start in Monday's spring training game. But, the Orioles will do what they can to retain him, so he will likely be placed in the bullpen.
Keeping McFarland, however, comes with consequences.
According to Roch Kubatko of MASN, Arrieta is all but assured the fifth starting spot. So if Arrieta, Matusz and McFarland are all to make the team, another player must be cut, traded or put on the disabled list.
That player may be reliever Luis Ayala, as the Orioles have placed him on the trading block. Ayala was a contributing member of the Orioles' stellar bullpen in 2012, but trading him for a prospect or two would open up the space they need to retain the other three pitchers on the 25-man roster.
Trades can not be assumed, however, so the final prediction for the Orioles' pitching staff will contain Ayala. That being said, sometime in the upcoming week, a move will likely be made to open up roster space, whether that means trading Ayala or not. Any roster move that opens up space would put Arrieta in the rotation and Matusz in the bullpen.
Orioles Projected Roster - Pitching Staff
SP - Jason Hammel
SP - Wei-Yin Chen (L)
SP - Miguel Gonzalez
SP - Chris Tillman
SP - Brian Matusz (L)
RP - TJ McFarland (L)
RP - Tommy Hunter
RP - Troy Patton (L)
RP - Luis Ayala
RP - Darren O'Day
RP - Pedro Strop
CP - Jim Johnson
As for the position players, there are only two questions remaining; who is the utility infielder? And who will claim the last bench spot?
Alexi Casilla should make the team over Ryan Flaherty despite Flaherty's impressive spring. With Showalter's love of versatility, the 26-year-old could still claim that last bench spot. However, a trip to Triple-A to get everyday at-bats for Flaherty may not be a bad thing.
The two favorites for the final bench spot are Conor Jackson and Steve Pearce.
Jackson has also been solid this spring, averaging .313. The advantage Jackson has over his counterpart is his track record. He was a solid big-leaguer, capable of hitting .300 until an illness seemingly halted his career.
Fully recovered and finding his swing, Jackson's previous success could give him the edge he needs to make the 25-man roster.
Orioles Projected Roster - Position Players
C - Matt Wieters
C - Taylor Teagarden
1B/OF - Chris Davis
1B/OF - Conor Jackson
2B - Brian Roberts
2B - Alex Casilla
SS - JJ Hardy
3B - Manny Machado
OF - Nate McLouth
OF - Adam Jones
OF - Nick Markakis
OF - Nolan Reimold
1B/3B/OF/DH - Wilson Betemit
*update* - Wilson Betemit tore his PCL in Monday's spring training game. The favorite to take his spot on the roster is Ryan Flaherty.