DUNEDIN, Fla. ——When the question about this year's Opening Day starter is asked, Orioles manager Buck Showalter stiffens, then shakes his head.
Showalter doesn't understand the label — or the importance — placed on naming an Opening Day starter. That person is only guaranteed to pitch in that slot once, and the success of the Orioles' pitching rebuilding project will be dictated not by the development of one pitcher, but the entire rotation.
Since the Orioles dealt right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who was the team's Opening Day starter three of the past four years, to Colorado in February, the question has come up a lot.
Three weeks into spring training, the inquiry is more appropriate.
But Showalter isn't ready to go there.
"It's not a topic of conversation with us at all," he said before the Orioles' 4-1 Grapefruit League loss to the Blue Jays on Monday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
"It will be somebody, I betcha. I think because we haven't [announced it], it tells you why. We have a number of candidates. We don't look at it as being the Opening Day No. 1. We look at it as here's the guy who is going to pitch first."
Showalter, however, said he has two or three pitchers in mind, including one "dark horse" to start the season opener April 6 against Minnesota at Camden Yards.
Right-hander Jake Arrieta — who started last year's home opener — is likely in the mix there, as is right-hander Tommy Hunter. Right-hander Jason Hammel, who was acquired from the Rockies in the Guthrie deal, is the Orioles' most experienced arm. He could possibly be the dark horse.
"I haven't spent much time on it because I haven't had to yet," Showalter said. "Let them pitch, let them get a feel. It's about things other than pitching. There's a reason why we started Jake in the home opener last year. We wanted to give him as much time as possible [this spring recovering from offseason elbow surgery]. We wanted to pitch him fifth. There's some other issues to take into consideration."
This time next week, the Orioles will have to start lining up starters to get them on schedule for the first week of the season.
Take into consideration that three pitchers competing for rotation spots — Hunter, left-hander Zach Britton and left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada — still haven't pitched in a Grapefruit League game and likely won't until next week at the earliest.
The Orioles still believe all three will be able to break camp with the team. Hunter, who will throw four innings in a minor league game Friday, will likely pitch in a Grapefruit League game sooner than the others.
Chen handles first road test
The Orioles considered leaving offseason acquisition Wei-Yin Chen in Sarasota on Monday, but decided to give the left-handed pitcher his first spring road test in Dunedin against the Blue Jays.
Chen battled with his control in his three innings of work — just 29 of his 52 pitches were strikes — going deep into counts while allowing one run on two hits with one walk and two strikeouts in the Orioles' 4-1 loss to Toronto.
"At this point, I think he benefits more from pitching in this environment," Showalter said.
Chen said he was working on his two-seamer and off-speed pitches while still getting used to a warmer climate.
Righthander Armando Galarraga allowed three runs on two hits and three walks in the fourth inning.
Left-fielder Nolan Reimold, hit in the jaw with a pitch Friday, will play Tuesday after seeing a dentist Monday. … Reliever Matt Lindstrom (lower back stiffness) threw a bullpen session and will return on either Tuesday or Wednesday, Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair said. … Right-hander Jim Johnson (back) is still slated to return Wednesday against the Pirates. … Wada will pitch in a minor league game Wednesday and then again either Sunday or Monday. … Hunter (back) is slated to next pitch in a minor league game Friday. … Britton (shoulder) is slated to throw a light side session Tuesday and then pitch two innings in a minor league game Thursday. … Catcher Taylor Teagarden (back) was scheduled to have a precautionary MRI Monday morning. … Reliever Troy Patton (arm fatigue) is scheduled to pitch Tuesday. … There's no update on relieverDarren O' Day (groin), who missed his scheduled pitching day Sunday.
Around the horn
Despite the fact that top prospect Dylan Bundy was optioned to Class-A Delmarva on Sunday, it doesn't mean he will start the season in low Class-A, Showalter said. … Catcher Ronny Paulino, who missed the first three weeks of camp with visa issues, could start at DH Tuesday vs. the Rays. … Showalter said it was "obvious" that neither third baseman Josh Bell nor second baseman Ryan Adams — both of whom were cut Sunday — were going to make the club. The fact that both play just one position hurt them. … Right-hander Chris Tillman, who fared well Sunday vs. Boston, said coming into camp in better shape is helping him with his delivery. … Even though he was technically sent down to minor league camp Sunday, top prospect Manny Machado was back with the travel squad Monday and was a late sub. He has played in eight of nine games. He took a batted ball to the right leg during batting practice but was OK. … Showalter said several players who need work could participate in the minor league Class-A game on Monday, the team's only scheduled off day. … After Ryan Flaherty made his second error of the spring at shortstop Monday, Showalter said there's possibility he could also play some first base as well.