Even when Koji Uehara’s deal becomes official - he should take his physical this week - I still could see the Orioles adding two more relievers. Sure, one of them may be a minor league type deal or a one-year deal with a really low base salary. But there are a ton of guys available and the Orioles certainly realize that several of their bullpen guys have had some injury problems. If the Orioles go with 12-man pitching staff and a seven-man bullpen, you would think that barring spring injuries, Uehara, Jim Johnson, Michael Gonzalez and Jason Berken would be locks. They are likely to sign a right-handed setup man with Kevin Gregg being one of their main targets. That means two spots for a group that includes Alfredo Simon, Rick VandenHurk, Rule 5 pick Adrian Rosario, Pedro Viola, Troy Patton and any other guy they may sign. Rosario, Viola and Patton obviously would be long shots to make the club.
I certainly would not be against the Orioles signing one of the available designated hitters (Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome or Hideki Matsui) and then perhaps a right-handed hitting corner infield type (Jorge Cantu?) rather than one of the available first basemen. That way, you can use Luke Scott in a platoon at first base, and use him a little bit in left field and at DH. I don’t think that will happen because manager Buck Showalter takes first base defense very seriously, but it would certainly be a way to upgrade the lineup.
The question I’m getting most now concerns the Orioles’ search for a veteran starter and I’ll tell you honestly that I have no idea where that is going. That’s clearly been a backburner issue. I know that Andy MacPhail has called plenty of teams to see if they are willing to trade a starter, but I don’t have any names for you. As for the free agent market, the Orioles aren’t in on Cliff Lee and I’ve heard nothing about interest in Carl Pavano either. Pavano seems pretty far down the road with other clubs. After them, I can’t really find a veteran starter that you can plug into the Opening Day rotation and be comfortable that you have an upgrade over what you had in Kevin Millwood. Doug Davis, Dave Bush and Jeremy Bonderman in the A.L. East? No thanks. I know there is plenty of fan support for signing a pitcher coming off an injury (Jeff Francis, Brandon Webb, Chris Young, Ben Sheets, Rich Harden, Justin Duchscherer to name a few) to a low-risk, incentive-laden deal and I’d have no problem with that. But that isn’t an easy sell for the Orioles. Most of those guys want to go somewhere on a one-year deal, prove they are healthy, have a good season and then hit the free agent market after the 2011 season and look for a long-term deal. In other words, they traditionally don’t land in hitter’s parks and on teams that play the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox nearly 20 times a year.
Congrats to Orioles’ starter Jeremy Guthrie who will be honored as Major League Pitcher of the Year at the 27th annual Hot Stove banquet in San Jose, Calif. on Jan. 25. The event honors Santa Clara County baseball players from the major, minor, college and high school leagues. Guthrie qualifies because he went to Stanford. Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who went to high school in Sunnyvale, Calif., was named the Major League Player of the Year.
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