The fifth spot in the rotation could be narrowed between three candidates

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is some good competition for that all important fifth spot in the Orioles starting rotation. They won’t need a fifth starter until they travel north of the border on April 15 to take on the Blue Jays, but manager Buck Showalter would love to get this thing sorted out as quickly as possible. 

The competition isn’t making it an easy selection though. 

You could narrow the selection down to a few front runners, Gabriel Ynoa, Jayson Acquino, and Chris Lee. Normally I’d consider Mike Wright to be in this race, but he hasn’t shown much promise here recently. So, we’ll narrow this race down to three. 

Gabriel Ynoa is my front, front-runner. He has had an exceptional spring, throwing 13.2 innings in five appearances (three starts). He’s allowed just three runs, on 11 hits while walking three and striking out nine. He’s also held RHH’s to a .130 average this spring. If he can fine tune his sinker a tad more, and couple it with his 93mph (on average) fastball, the Orioles would have a heck of a fifth starter in their rotation. 

Chris Lee is right behind Ynoa to claim that rotation spot. Lee has been equally impressive. He’s thrown just two thirds of an inning less than Ynoa (13), and has an ERA of 2.77 in five appearances (two starts). Lee has held hitters to a .231 average with runners in scoring position, and allowed two hits or less in four-of-five appearances this spring. His only blemish was on Wednesday night against the Rays, when he allowed five hits in two IP.

Jayson Aquino is my dark horse selection this spring. His chances of making the rotation in my opinion are smaller than Ynoa’s and Lee’s, but the Orioles would like another left-handed starter in the rotation, and Aquino gives major league experience (even if it’s just three games in relief). Coming into today’s game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Aquino had appeared in five games (no starts), and has allowed an ERA of 0.82. His .121 allowed average to RHH’s got him a start today, in which he pitched four innings, striking out four, and walking just one. He gave up three hits, and allowed just one earned run. 

There’s five games remaining on the Orioles exhibition schedule, including a 3:05 game vs. the AAA-affiliate Norfolk Tides. How many more times will we see each one of them on the bump is unknown, but it could be pretty clear that one of them may receive the start in Toronto, on April 15. 

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