FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The competition for the fifth spot in the rotation became a bit clearer for the Twins on Friday, as it's expected to be occupied by either right-hander Kyle Gibson or left-hander Scott Diamond.
Right-hander Samuel Deduno, who was considered the favorite for the fifth spot in the rotation based on his 3.83 ERA in 18 starts last season and his 2.19 ERA in five Grapefruit League appearances, is expected to start the year as a long reliever.
Gibson is now the frontrunner, and gets the start against the Orioles on Tuesday, while Diamond is scheduled to piggyback Gibson in that game. There were early media reports saying Gibson had already won the job, but those were denied by both Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and assistant general manager Rob Antony.
Deduno also remains in that mix in case Gibson or Diamond falter, but given Deduno's propensity for high pitch counts that don't allow him to go deep into games, the Twins like him better in long relief. Diamond, who like Deduno is out of Minor League options, also could head to the bullpen or be placed on waivers if he loses out to Gibson.
"There's a better chance that Deduno will end up in the bullpen," Antony said. "I think he's still in the mix for the rotation. We're going to continue to pitch him stretched out, but we only have a week left to straighten this out so it's going to be more Gibson and Diamond. Deduno is still in the mix, but we feel like he could handle the bullpen better."
Right-hander Vance Worley was originally in that mix, but he was outrighted to Triple-A Rochester on Friday after clearing waivers.