Inbox: Will O's be in market for starting pitching?
Inbox: Will O's be in market for starting pitching?
By Brittany Ghiroli
Is executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette targeting a starting pitcher via midseason trade? If so, who are some of the names?
-- Beirne W., Baltimore, Md.
The Orioles are aggressively seeking another starter to help their rotation, and you can bet Duquette will explore every possible avenue. Miami's Ricky Nolasco and Houston's Bud Norris are on their radar, as are Angels pitcher Jason Vargas -- whom they had interest in at last year's Trade Deadline -- and Seattle's Joe Saunders, who was a late-season trade from the D-backs and started the Orioles' first playoff win in 15 years in last year's American League Wild Card game. Minnesota's Mike Pelfrey is another name that has come up.
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Duquette stood pat at last year's Deadline before acquiring Saunders in late August, and it's entirely plausible that he opts to do the same this July if asking prices are too high. It's shaping up to be a thin market for available starting pitching, and ideally, Baltimore would like to add at least one more pitcher to help eat innings and keep the bullpen fresh. Whether that comes to fruition or not is another story. Keep in mind, Baltimore doesn't have a whole lot of trade chips and is unwilling to part with young pitchers Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy as it tries to win now and build a solid foundation for the future.
Do you think Zach Britton will get another start?
-- Adam S., Elkridge, Md.
I think he should. Orioles manager Buck Showlater was noncommittal after Britton's 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday night,but he did publicly list him as an option -- along with Freddy Garcia -- to pitch Sunday's series finale in Toronto. Britton wasn't particularly sharp by his own admission, calling the outing "just OK," and noting that there was a lot of room for improvement in the 89-pitch start. Still, he gave the Orioles a chance to win and held his own against a tough Tigers lineup on the road, showing some improvements in his delivery from this spring.
I'd expect him to get another chance to build off that start and get at least one more go-around in the rotation to give Britton a fair chance at helping the big league club. Constantly shuffling guys in and out after one start -- which is what happened after Britton's last outing -- has helped the Orioles maximize the 25-man roster for every game, but it can also be unsettling for a younger starter constantly having to look over their shoulder. The Orioles gave Jake Arrieta -- who was optioned following Monday's start -- a handful of outings earlier this season before sending him to Triple-A, and they stuck with Gausman for multiple starts, optioning the rookie as part of a roster crunch after his June 13 start. I think you have to give Britton -- who has shown flashes of success -- another start to see if the lefty can help a rotation still missing southpaw Wei-Yin Chen.
What's the latest on the injured Orioles, and can we expect any of them back before the All-Star break?
-- Ethan M., Columbia, Md.
Chen was scheduled to throw a three-inning simulated game down in Sarasota, Fla., on Thursday, and assuming that went well, he would need one more before heading out on rehab assignment. The way it lines up, Chen could return from his left oblique strain the first week of July, which would certainly be a boost for the Orioles. Second baseman Brian Roberts is on a similar timetable and could also be back before the first half ends. Roberts has been traveling with the team and making solid strides in his recovery from a right hamstring surgery, running quick bursts on the field in Detroit on Tuesday, and he could be ready for a rehab assignment sometime next week.
Wilson Betemit is progressing slowly and likely won't be back until after the break. There's no real news on Steve Johnson (oblique strain), although those injuries are tricky and tend to take several weeks.
What do you envision Tsuyoshi Wada's role being once/if he puts together a string of solid starts? Especially if Gausman does the same?
-- Todd S., Baltimore
Wada has always been thought of as a starter, and if he can put together a consistent stretch, he's an option for the Orioles. Given the rotation's uncertainty and the workload for the bullpen during the first few months of the season, having too many starters doing well would be a great problem for the Orioles to have. Wada struggled on his rehab assignment, which is why the club -- with Wada's permission -- optioned him to Triple-A, and he's coming off his best outing so far. He will pitch again for Norfolk on Sunday and try to keep that momentum going.
As for Gausman, I'd imagine he'd be back up with the organization fairly soon. He didn't have a particularly effective return to Triple-A on Wednesday, but the Orioles remain really high on the rookie's potential.
What's the plan at second base? Wait for Roberts or do something else?
-- Justin T. Harrisonburg, Va.
The plan has always been to have Ryan Flaherty back up Roberts, and that's exactly what you're seeing now. Alexi Casilla has been used sparingly, as Showalter likes to keep him on the bench as a potential pinch-runner late in the games. As I noted above, Roberts is nearing a rehab assignment, and Flaherty -- while off to a slow start offensively -- has been solid defensively, and that's where the O's place a premium. The Orioles' lineup is one of the best in baseball, and acquiring a second baseman isn't a top priority. One, there isn't a whole lot available that would be an upgrade. Two, they are already paying Roberts' salary, and three, the preference is funneling any and all resources and trade chips into helping out the rotation.