ST. PETERSBURG -- A steady accumulation of players, coupled with a pair of bright young pitching prospects, puts the Orioles in a different position, depth-wise, than they were even a year ago. And while executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said the emphasis has always been "win now" since he came on board last winter, the organization is prepared -- once again -- for a barrage of moves and roster transactions to make the team that much better on a given day.
"You have to be active to keep your team as strong as you can," said Duquette, whose club had more roster moves than games played last season. "I don't like to make moves just to make moves. But we like to have our best team, put all the resources we can into today's game and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.
"If you had 25 players and no one got hurt and they were all everyday players, [that's great]. That's not the way it works, though. I personally think when you bring players up to help the team, it energizes the team. If you are proactive, it helps keep your team tuned up."
Two of the Orioles' five starting pitchers, in Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman, weren't on last year's Opening Day roster, and the club's top pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft, right-hander Kevin Gausman was impressive enough this spring for the organization to keep him around until the final week. Ask Duquette what the biggest difference is this spring and he identifies the pitching staff being a more "established" group, a fact that the organization hopes will add consistency to a rotation in flux most of 2012.
Duquette, who added veterans arms Freddy Garcia and Scott Proctor on the final days of camp, has accumulated enough pitching to be in a more comfortable position to make a trade than he was this winter, though both Garcia and Proctor will start the season at Triple-A Norfolk.
"You need good depth through the year, but we have enough depth where we could probably make a trade," said Duquette, who has, not surprisingly, fielded the most phone calls regarding the organization's young pitching -- specifically Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Zach Britton.
"We do have some depth in the outfield," Duquette said, "and some of the outfielders are capable, [but] there's a little less demand for outfielders than for pitching. We have pretty decent [pitching] depth returning in the bullpen, which I think is helpful."
The Orioles' bullpen will have eight members to start the season, with the organization again manipulating the roster in every possible way to gain a competitive advantage and placing Tillman on the disabled list until his start on Saturday. The extra spot enables the O's to have three lefty relievers, including Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland, who was one of the team's final roster decisions. What happens after that, barring injury, could require a trade or the Orioles to go with a short bench if they deem the 23-year-old McFarland worth keeping.
"He's thrown a little harder in spring camp than our scouts saw him throw last year," Duquette noted of McFarland, who worked with pitching coach Rick Adair to make an adjustment that helped him turn around a shaky start to spring. "He looks like a qualified Major Leaguer."
Keeping McFarland could prove difficult in the American League East, and manager Buck Showalter said his initial role will be long relief. The Orioles were able to keep last year's Rule 5 Draft pick, infielder Ryan Flaherty, and Duquette admits having McFarland stay on the 25-man roster is a "challenge," particularly given that the O's bullpen is full of players without options remaining. The organization likes what it has seen in a limited sample size from McFarland but, as Showalter reminded reporters all spring, there's nowhere to hide a pitcher in the AL East and McFarland will have to get results to avoid being the odd man out when the club activates Tillman on Saturday.
"I just think you have to have an urgency to win a game every day, but we are a much more established ballclub now having won 93 games last year," said Duquette, who signed a contract extension that will keep him in Baltimore through 2018. "So the idea is to win over 90 every year and keep your team in a position where they can compete for the playoffs every year.
"There's a way to create some urgency for today but also plan to have a good team in the future. And I really appreciate the opportunity to be here for the long term. But in terms of managing the club on a day-to-day basis, I still think that the fans and the players, they like it when you are trying to win today's game. If we do our job well in recruiting players and player development we should be able to have a steady stream of players coming up through the Minors."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less