Brandon McCarthy goes for what will likely be his last start of the Spring today (at least in AZ, he may go against the Giants next Weds.) and it appears, at least according to all media accounts, that he is the front runner in the 5th starter race. Why, other than his age and experience, I'm not entirely sure, since he and Tyson Ross have had very similarly impressive springs.
Yes - Ross's K/BB ratio isn't quite at the level of McCarthy's (McCarthy has yet to surrender a single BB!) but otherwise, he's been equally as locked in this spring. McCarthy seems to have an edge in his ability to, or at least the coaching staffs willingness to let him pitch deeper into games; however, Ross has been equally, if not more efficient, averaging nearly 3 fewer pitches per IP than McCarthy this spring.
I suppose you could make the argument that the A's management is hesitant to move too fast with Ross, much like they did last year, based on his impressive spring alone. Perhaps they want to see him dominate at the AAA a little more before they bring him up. Maybe they want to keep him, at least early on, in an environment where they can keep his pitch count down early in the season without worrying about it impacting games so much. But if they are planning to award the 5th starter spot based purely the pitcher's ability to get major leaguers out, I think he's got to still be highly considered for the role.
What I hope they do not do, is put him in the bullpen as a long reliever. I'd rather see him kept stretched out for a starting role in Sacramento than have him biding his time on the bullpen bench and occasionally pitching every 5th or 6th day.
What is Tyson Ross's fate come April 1st? Will McCarthy's performance today even play into the decision, or has he already been anointed the #5 starter as many of the beat writers have implied?