It's hard for me to understand how the Orioles' fifth spot in the rotation hasn't been handed to Brian Matusz. The fact that Tsuyoshi Wada's name is still in the mix seems silly.
Wada is expected to get one more start Tuesday. After that, a final decision will be made as 25-man rosters must be set by Wednesday.
Wada showed up to camp with a bum elbow and needed fluid drained. Because of the injury, Wada has only appeared in three Grapefruit League games, starting only one. How can Orioles manager Buck Showalter have confidence in a pitcher who's only thrown five innings this spring? That just isn't enough to convince anyone Wada belongs in the rotation.
Unfortunately, part of the decision is somewhat political. Wada signed a two-year $8.15 million deal this offseason. He was executive vice president Dan Duquette's first international market signing after being named the Orioles' new head honcho. You have to imagine Duquette wants to give Wada every opportunity to succeed.
Plus, Wada has a clause in his contract that doesn't allow the O's to option him to the minors unless he agrees to it. Why they gave him that kind of power, I don't understand.
On top of Wada's lack of options, and based on Matusz's mess of a 2011 season, the Orioles came into the spring inclined to start Matusz in Triple-A Norfolk. There, he could regain confidence and earn his way back to the big leagues. Part of the original problem may have been Matusz came to the majors too early back in 2009
The O's didn't want Matusz to make the rotation by default or because others were injured - which has happened in part. If Zach Britton was healthy, Matusz would most likely already be in Triple-A.
Still, Matusz's solid spring can't be denied. It hasn't been perfect, but he's show the ability to battle through when he doesn't have his best stuff. Showalter seems happy with what he's seen from the 25-year-old.
Matusz has worked extremely hard on improving his strength and endurance. He's rededicated to proving he can get big league batters out, something he's done this spring. Matusz has a 3.65 ERA in six starts and leads the team in strikeouts with 22. He'll pitch in the O's final exhibition game in Norfolk on Wednesday.
Matusz is the O's best option for fifth starter right now. While I understand the scenario that has put him in that position deviates from the O's original plan, it is what it is. Duquette wanted to create competition in camp, and Matusz has competed.
My prediction is the O's come up north with Matusz in the No. 5 spot and Wada will stay in Florida for extended spring training until they can figure out what to do with him. Wada is most likely not a bullpen option.