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By The Sports Xchange February 20, 2013 8:01 PM
In years past, the Baltimore Orioles had a slew of has-beens and minor league journeymen battling for the fifth starter's role. This year, they're rolling out a former All-Star and some of the club's top pitching prospects of the past few seasons. With the notion that Jason Hammel and Wei-Yen Chen have locked up the top two spots in the rotation, and that righties Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tilman have a leg up on the competition for two other spots, the fifth starter's role will be one of the primary position battles in Sarasota, Fla. Manager Buck Showalter has two young pitchers in camp who made a nice impact in the club's late-summer push to the 2012 playoffs, lefty Zach Britton and righty Steve Johnson. They're joined by lefty Brian Matusz, who may be better suited for a relief role after a lights-out performance in the playoffs, and last year's Opening Day starter, right-hander Jake Arrieta. Right-hander Tommy Hunter would need an eye-opening spring to earn back his starting role. Then there are the new guys, led by former Atlanta Braves All-Star Jair Jurrjens. The veteran signed a minor league contract after an injury-riddled 2012, and he has minor league options remaining, so the club could let him start slowly and build toward a mid-year call-up. One pitcher who is new to camp but doesn't have the luxury of a minor league option is lefty T.J. McFarland. The tall hurler is a Rule 5 pick, and he has impressed club officials and scouts. If he doesn't make the club, he'd have to be offered back to the Indians. By the time October rolls around, the fifth starter may be irrelevant. The club's top two prospects -- righties Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman -- are projected to be ready by year's end. And by next season, that duo may be locked into starting roles.