Jobs up for grabs as games begin
Top-flight pitching prospects will get plenty of opportunities
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Here come the games. The Orioles will begin their Grapefruit League season in earnest today, when they open the gates to Fort Lauderdale Stadium at 1:05 p.m. ET for a game against the Mets. The home game will be the first of 18 for Baltimore and the first chance to begin sizing up the starting rotation.
Baltimore, which has two rotation slots standing completely vacant, will begin evaluating potential starters with Wednesday's first pitch. Brad Hennessey will take the ball first for the Orioles, and he'll be followed by Chris Waters and David Pauley, both of whom have a chance to snag a rotation spot.
"The guys that we need to take a look at are guys that you're going to see early in camp and pitch early in games," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley of his plan to shape his starting staff.
The Orioles will also use Spring Training to look at several of their top-flight pitching prospects, but Andy MacPhail, the team's president of baseball operations, said there won't be any rash decisions. Baltimore's best arms will be handled gently and deliberately, and no amount of spring success will change that policy.
"Some of these guys, you just give them the opportunity to get themselves in shape," MacPhail said Tuesday. "While their Spring Training performances can sometimes influence what happens, the majority of the time, where they end up is a function of how they did last year as much as anything. We don't want guys overamping here too early in Spring Training and trying to impress and jump up two classifications."
With those comments, MacPhail was expressing the plan for top prospects Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta -- none of whom have pitched above Double-A. Matusz, in fact, has yet to pitch in a full-season professional league, and Tillman and Arrieta are expected to begin the season at Double-A Bowie.
Baltimore will also use the spring to evaluate catcher Matt Wieters, who is regarded by many analysts as the best prospect in baseball. Much like their plan with the pitchers, though, the Orioles will likely send Wieters to Triple-A Norfolk for the first month of the season and promote him whenever his success dictates the move.
Brian Bass and Jim Miller will also pitch today for the Orioles. The Mets, meanwhile, will counter with Major League veterans Sean Green, Elmer Dessens, Pedro Feliciano and Duaner Sanchez. Brian Stokes, Valerio de los Santos, Matt DiSalvo and Darren O'Day are also expected to pitch for New York.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.