About a week and a half ago, I wrote how touted Orioles lefty Zach Britton was making an early case to be the fifth starter for the team out of the gate, after completing two scoreless innings in his major league spring training debut.

Well, all he’s done since then is add to his case. A four-inning scoreless start this past Saturday brought his total scoreless innings this spring up to nine.

With injury-prone starter Justin Duchscherer experiencing hip problems again and most likely not prepared for the start of the season, a hole opens in the rotation that Britton, Chris Tillman and Ryan Drese are competing for.

And of those three pitchers, Britton has had the best spring.

Drese is also making a case for himself, allowing only one earned run over seven innings this spring. Another thing the pitcher—who is attempting a comeback after being ineffective for years—has going for him is that his best season was with the Texas Rangers, when current Orioles manager Buck Showalter was the Rangers’ manager.

Tillman, currently viewed as the favorite for taking that open starting rotation slot, has thrown 8.2 innings this spring and has an ERA of 5.19. But because of his dominance at the AAA level last season, which included a no-hitter, many believe he should remain with the big league team.

They also believe that management should stop yo-yo’ing him back and forth between the minors and majors. If he has nothing more to learn at the AAA level, then he shouldn’t remain there—it can only hurt his mentality.

It has been widely debated by Baltimore’s baseball writers and the team’s fans for the past week on whether Britton should be in the majors come Opening Day on April 1. At the beginning of spring, it was all but assumed that he’d be going back down to AAA to begin the year, having made just 12 starts there in his career.

Also, if he wasn’t with the big league club for the first 20 days of the season, his service clock wouldn’t count this year, thus putting off his possible free agency for another year. With a prospect as highly touted as he, it is easy to see why that’s an appealing option.

The Orioles wouldn’t need a fifth starter until April 10, when they play the Rangers at home. That means that they could break camp with a four-man rotation, eight relievers, and figure out who’s starting that April 10 game when the time comes, or they could slot Drese into the role, giving more development time to Tillman and Britton.

There’s also the option of giving the spot to Tillman out of the gate, making it his to lose.

I’d like to see Britton start off the year at AAA Norfolk and to be called up in May or June if he continues to show he’s ready for the bigs.

To me, it’s about both the developmental factor—giving the young pitcher more time to learn and build up his confidence winning at a lower level before being shown the big bats in the majors—and the business factor.

If he becomes everything he’s capable of being, what team wouldn’t want to hold onto him for an extra year?

As for giving the spot to either Tillman or Drese, I can’t decide. Drese has definitely made the better case, and if he continues to pitch this spring like he has been, then he’s earned it fair and square.

However, Tillman is part of the future, and really needs to be trotted out there every day at the major league level so that the Orioles’ executives can see what they really have in the young pitcher.

There’s also Rick VandenHurk, a young and talented pitcher who came over from the Florida Marlins at the trade deadline last year. He has given up four earned runs over six innings this spring and is out of options. Although, there’s always the possibility he makes the club as a long reliever/swingman type pitcher.

It’s certainly an interesting dilemma for Showalter to figure out over the rest of spring training.

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